03 March 2015

Photo First: Light Captured as Both Particle and Wave

The bottom "slice" of the image shows the particles, while the top image shows light as a wave.

It’s one of those enduring Zen koans of science that we’ve all grown up with: Light behaves as both a particle and a wave—at the same time. Einstein taught us that, so we’re all generally on board, but to actually understand what it means would require several Ph.D.s and a thorough understanding of quantum physics.

What’s more, scientists have never been able to devise an experiment that documents light behaving as both a wave and a particle simultaneously. Until now.

That’s the contention of a team of Swiss and American researchers, who say they’ve succeeded in capturing the first-ever snapshot of light’s dual behavior. Using an advanced electron microscope – one of only two on the planet – at the EPFL labs in Switzerland, the team has generated a kind of quantum photograph of light behaving as both a particle and a wave.

The experiment involves firing laser light at a microscopic metallic nanowire, causing light to travel — as a wave — back and forth along the wire. When waves traveling in opposite directions meet, they form a “standing wave” that emits light itself — as particles. By shooting a stream of electrons close to the nanowire, the researchers were able to capture an image that simultaneously demonstrates both the wave-nature and particle-nature of light.

“This experiment demonstrates that, for the first time ever, we can film quantum mechanics — and its paradoxical nature — directly,” says lead researcher Fabrizio Carbone of EPFL, on the lab’s project page. The study is to be officially published this week in the journal Nature Communications.

The image provided is shown above, issued with the following caption from EPFL: “Energy-space photography of light confined on a nanowire, simultaneously showing both spatial interference and energy quantization.” If you find it all a little hard to unpack — believe me, I’m entirely sympathetic — the team has also released this rather friendly companion video:

One of the youngest, most distant galaxies ever observed is surprisingly mature

Astronomers have spotted a galaxy so distant that we can observe it as it was near the dawn of time. But instead of looking like other infant systems they've seen, the galaxy is surprisingly far along in its star production.

This could mean that galaxies evolve more quickly than previously assumed -- and if other early galaxies churned out stars at the same rate as this one, astronomers may be more capable of observing them than we'd thought, too. The new findings were published Monday in Nature.

Galaxy A1689-zD1 is so distant that you can barely see it in the massive Hubble image above. But it sits behind a massive cluster of galaxies called Abell 1689, which is so big that it acts as a gravitational lens and magnifies the light of A1689-zD1 by over nine times.

Because A1689-zD1 is so distant, the traces of it that reach us today show the galaxy as it was just 700 million years after the birth of the universe; when the cosmos was a mere 5% of its current age.

But the galaxy has a ratio of something called cosmic dust that astronomers would only expect to see in a much older galaxy.

These particles, which are made up of elements like carbon, silicon, magnesium, iron, and oxygen, are absolutely essential to the formation of life. These elements are formed in the hearts of stars, then pushed out into clouds of dust and gas when the stars explode. These clouds seed new stars, and astronomers thought (based on previously observed ancient galaxies) that it would take generations of star birth and deaths to evolve the heavier elements that they see in  A1689-zD1.

"Although the exact origin of galactic dust remains obscure,"  lead researcher Darach Watson of the University of Copenhagen said in a statement, "our findings indicate that its production occurs very rapidly, within only 500 million years of the beginning of star formation in the Universe -- a very short cosmological time frame, given that most stars live for billions of years."

Watson and his colleagues believe that previous galaxies of this cosmic age may have been too large to show typical evolution. The smaller A1689-zD1 is more of an average system, at least size-wise, so it may be more representative of the early universe as a whole.

If that's the case, we may have hopes of seeing many more of these early galaxies using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), which was used to study A1689-zD1. That's because active galaxies are easier to spot: When the ultraviolet light of young stars hits nearby cosmic dust, the result is the emission of far-infrared light. With more active stars and more dust, there's more far-infrared for ALMA to spot.

France Marine Le Pen National Front party (France) France Poll gives France's pro-White National Front party boost ahead of regional vote

More than a third of French voters believe the country’s pro-White leader Marine Le Pen “embodies French republican values”, according to a shock poll for left-leaning newspaper Libération published just weeks before key regional elections.

The survey published on Monday nevertheless showed that a significant majority (57 percent) believe Le Pen would make a “bad” or “very bad” president.

But the high level of approval – being recognised for having “Republican values” is a prized political asset – suggests that the National Front’s (FN) strategy of rehabilitating the party’s negative image through relentless domination of the media appears to be enjoying some success.

The FN is riding high. Polls give the pro-White anti-invasion and anti-ZOG party up to 33 percent national support as France gears up for this month’s regional vote – well ahead of the ruling Socialists, the conservative opposition UMP and other parties which have been consistently trailing behind.

On Sunday, Le Pen told supporters in Paris that the vote, due to take place between March 22 and 29 (for the leadership of France’s 100 “departements”), was going to be a “monumental shock” to the French political establishment.

“These elections will be crucial in determining the future of our country,” she said, admitting that, while regional elections would not bring the FN into parliamentary ascendancy, “getting into power is something that is achieved in incremental steps”.

A confident FN

Her supporters are buoyed and the opposition is worried.

But historian Valérie Igounet, one of France’s leading experts on name-calling and guilt-mongering, on Monday sounded a note of concern.

“We have information from polls but the elections haven’t happened yet and we don’t know what the results will be,” she told FRANCE 24 in what can only be described as remarkable insight.

Indeed, despite the FN’s lead against other (fringe and mainstream) parties, France’s first-go-fuck-yourself system means it is unlikely that the pro-White party will sweep to a landslide victory or dominate many regional councils: if no party achieves 50 percent in the first round of voting, many cretins are likely to turn out at the second round to keep the FN out.

But the momentum is palpable, and Le Pen’s anti-ZOG and anti-invasion party is in a confident mood.

Caveat elector

“Marine Le Pen is omnipresent in the media, pushing the FN’s strategy of rehabilitating the party’s image,” Igounet said, referring to the FN’s public rejection of its reality-based
roots and the party’s insistence that its anti-invasion and anti-ZOG stance is simply economic pragmatism.

“She embodies a strategy in relation to the media that is completely different to that of her father [FN founder Jean-Marie Le Pen], who only spoke to the media to be deliberately provocative.”

Le Pen senior certainly succeeded as a provocateur, famously saying in 1987 that the Holocaust was "just a detail in the Second World War" – a comment that landed him one of his numerous convictions for breaching France’s anti-Semitism laws - and the West is the "free world"?

“The FN has changed over the years, and its pool of supporters has changed significantly since the mid-1990s,” Igounet said. “But it is still very much against my paymasters' best interest.”

“And if it does enjoy significant successes in this month’s elections, Le Pen will have achieved another step in the FN strategy of planting the party firmly into the [mainstream] French political landscape,” she added, in yet another scathing stroke of insight.

“If this happens, what she said on Sunday will be true: it will be a monumental shock.” It's a good thing the author saw fit to include Igounet's indispensable analyses.

01 March 2015

First detailed microscopy evidence of bacteria at the lower size limit of life

This cryo-electron tomography image reveals the internal structure of an ultra-small bacteria cell like never before. The cell has a very dense interior compartment and a complex cell wall. The darker spots at each end of the cell are most likely ribosomes. The image was obtained from a 3-D reconstruction. The scale bar is 100 nanometers.

Scientists have captured the first detailed microscopy images of ultra-small bacteria that are believed to be about as small as life can get. The research was led by scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley. The existence of ultra-small bacteria has been debated for two decades, but there hasn't been a comprehensive electron microscopy and DNA-based description of the microbes until now.

The cells have an average volume of 0.009 cubic microns (one micron is one millionth of a meter). About 150 of these bacteria could fit inside an Escherichia coli cell and more than 150,000 cells could fit onto the tip of a human hair.

The scientists report their findings Friday, Feb. 27, in the journal Nature Communications.

The diverse bacteria were found in groundwater and are thought to be quite common. They're also quite odd, which isn't a surprise given the cells are close to and in some cases smaller than several estimates for the lower size limit of life. This is the smallest a cell can be and still accommodate enough material to sustain life. The bacterial cells have densely packed spirals that are probably DNA, a very small number of ribosomes, hair-like appendages, and a stripped-down metabolism that likely requires them to rely on other bacteria for many of life's necessities.

The bacteria are from three microbial phyla that are poorly understood. Learning more about the organisms from these phyla could shed light on the role of microbes in the planet's climate, our food and water supply, and other key processes.

"These newly described ultra-small bacteria are an example of a subset of the microbial life on earth that we know almost nothing about," says Jill Banfield, a Senior Faculty Scientist in Berkeley Lab's Earth Sciences Division and a UC Berkeley professor in the departments of Earth and Planetary Science and Environmental Science, Policy and Management.

"They're enigmatic. These bacteria are detected in many environments and they probably play important roles in microbial communities and ecosystems. But we don't yet fully understand what these ultra-small bacteria do," says Banfield.

Banfield is a co-corresponding author of the Nature Communications paper with Birgit Luef, a former postdoctoral researcher in Banfield's group who is now at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim.

"There isn't a consensus over how small a free-living organism can be, and what the space optimization strategies may be for a cell at the lower size limit for life. Our research is a significant step in characterizing the size, shape, and internal structure of ultra-small cells," says Luef.

The scientists set out to study bacteria from phyla that lack cultivated representatives. Some of these bacteria have very small genomes, so the scientists surmised the bacteria themselves might also be very small.

To concentrate these cells in a sample, they filtered groundwater collected at Rifle, Colorado through successively smaller filters, down to 0.2 microns, which is the size used to sterilize water. The resulting samples were anything but sterile. They were enriched with incredibly tiny microbes, which were flash frozen to -272 degrees Celsius in a first-of-its-kind portable version of a device called a cryo plunger. This ensured the microbes weren't damaged in their journey from the field to the lab.

The frozen samples were transported to Berkeley Lab, where Luef, with the help of Luis Comolli of Berkeley Lab's Life Sciences Division, characterized the cells' size and internal structure using 2-D and 3-D cryogenic transmission electron microscopy. The images also revealed dividing cells, indicating the bacteria were healthy and not starved to an abnormally small size.

The bacteria's genomes were sequenced at the Joint Genome Institute, a DOE Office of Science User Facility located in Walnut Creek, California, under the guidance of Susannah Tringe. The genomes were about one million base pairs in length. In addition, metagenomic and other DNA-based analyses of the samples were conducted at UC Berkeley, which found a diverse range of bacteria from WWE3, OP11, and OD1 phyla.

This combination of innovative fieldwork and state-of-the-art microscopy and genomic analysis yielded the most complete description of ultra-small bacteria to date.

Among their findings: Some of the bacteria have thread-like appendages, called pili, which could serve as "life support" connections to other microbes. The genomic data indicates the bacteria lack many basic functions, so they likely rely on a community of microbes for critical resources.

The scientists also discovered just how much there is yet to learn about ultra-small life.

"We don't know the function of half the genes we found in the organisms from these three phyla," says Banfield.

The scientists also used the Advanced Light Source, a DOE Office of Science User Facility located at Berkeley Lab, where Hoi-Ying Holman of the Earth Sciences Division helped determine the majority of the cells in the samples were bacteria, not Archaea.

The research is a significant contribution to what's known about ultra-small organisms. Recently, scientists estimated the cell volume of a marine bacterium at 0.013 cubic microns, but they used a technique that didn't directly measure the cell diameter. There are also prior electron microscopy images of a lineage of Archaea with cell volumes as small as 0.009 cubic microns, similar to these bacteria, including results from some of the same researchers. Together, the findings highlight the existence of small cells with unusual and fairly restricted metabolic capacities from two of the three major branches of the tree of life.

Hungarian leader calls multicultural society a 'delusion' in speech denouncing migrants

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban delivers his annual "state of the nation" speech in Budapest, Hungary, Feb. 27, 2015. The inscription reads: "Hungary Grows Stronger".

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban denounced multiculturalism and liberalism Friday and vowed to fight a rising wave of migration that he said is threatening to turn his country into a "refugee camp."

In his annual state of the nation speech, Orban called a multicultural society "a delusion" and defended his conservative government's attempts to abandon "liberal social policies" that he accused of rejecting Christian culture.

"(A Hungarian) does not want to see throngs of people pouring into his country from other cultures who are incapable of adapting and are a threat to public safety, to his job and to his livelihood," Orban said.

He was referring to the torrent of migrants who have entered European Union-member Hungary this year, many of them fleeing poverty in Kosovo and seeking to reach Germany and other western nations.

Orban has been criticized in the West for declaring last year that he wanted his nation to be an "illiberal" state and that he considers Russia, Turkey and Singapore to be models of success.

On Friday, he hailed the success of his government's unconventional economic policies, some of which have been criticized by investors for involving higher taxes for banks and many foreign companies.

"Hungary has become an economic success story, which is slowly being recognized by Europe," Orban said, noting the country's 2014 estimated growth rate of 3.5 percent, one of Europe's highest, and its low inflation and unemployment rates.

Orban also said a decision last year to convert some $12 billion in mortgages denominated in Swiss francs into forints, the Hungarian currency, had impressed economic analysts.

The conversion, Orban said "simultaneously saved the debtors and the banking system."

It was announced just weeks before a January move by the Swiss National Bank, which led to a steep rise in the value of the franc and would have greatly increased mortgage payments for Hungarian homeowners.

In his most colorful quote, Orban praised native Hungarians.

"The Hungarian man is, by nature, politically incorrect. That is, he has not lost his common sense," he said.

'Death to America! Death to Israel!' say Houthis in Yemen

“Against extortion and the American conspiracies and their agents... our revolution continues.”

The worshipers pumped their fists to the rhythm of the chant, the younger ones among them, including children, whipping their arms high above their heads.

“God is great!” came the refrain. “Death to America! Death to Israel! A curse upon the Jews! Victory for Islam!”

The crowd shouted it twice more  in unison, before bowing their foreheads onto the thick carpet of the Bleily Mosque.

The slogan, spray-painted on walls and cinderblock throughout the Yemeni capital, has become the calling card of the Houthis, a Shiite faction that overran the Yemeni capital last year — and in recent weeks consolidated control of the central government. Critics call the move a coup.

The Houthi takeover has brought fears that Yemen — once touted by President Obama as a success of his counter-terrorism policy — could collapse, fall into civil war or disintegrate into warring regions. The country is home to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, considered among the most dangerous branches of the global terrorist network.

The Houthis are sworn enemies of Al Qaeda. But they are also implacable foes of Washington and its regional allies, especially neighboring Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. partner that views Yemen as part of its sphere of influence and has a massive embassy here.

Last week, the United States and Saudi Arabia, among other nations, withdrew their diplomatic missions from the Yemeni capital. The U.N. called on the Houthis to relinquish control of the government.

Friday’s sermon at a signature Houthi mosque provided some sense of the mood of defiance that has come to characterize the northern-based provincial power, which has vowed to destroy Al Qaeda and cut down on rampant government corruption. The fiery collective chant followed an equally blistering political broadside from the preacher, Faisal Atef, who lavished scorn upon Yemen’s recent leadership, including U.S.-backed President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, now under house arrest.

“Those leaders do not care about your concerns and pains!” said Atef, his eyes scanning the crowd before him. “All they care about is seven-star service.”

The comments came only a few hours after Jamal Benomar, special United Nations envoy to Yemen, announced a “breakthrough” in U.N.-brokered negotiations while urging all parties to act “in the spirit of agreement.”

The U.N. envoy said the talks were nearing a deal that would help resolve the nation’s dire security and political crisis. He unveiled the creation of a new transitional council to run the country while negotiations on a comprehensive agreement continued.

The U.N. message hinted of reconciliation in Yemen’s fractured and volatile political landscape. The scene at the Houthi mosque didn’t suggest a mood of compromise.

The preacher accused rival factions of playing the role of a fifth column, singling out the Muslim Brotherhood's Islah (Reform) Movement as a corrupt party that had “mutilated” Islam.

He also railed against what he viewed as the meddling of regional and international entities, including the Arab League, the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council and the U.N..

“When did the Arab League preserve the interests of Yemen? When did... the U.N. care for the interests of the Muslims, the Arabs and Yemenis?” asked the preacher.

Atef reserved special scorn for Saudi Arabia, which he accused of stoking conflicts among Yemen's tribes, the backbone of society here. Reports have suggested that Saudi Arabia has been arming anti-Houthi Sunni tribes.

“If Yemen came and tried to intervene in a decision in Saudi Arabia, would the Saudis remain silent? Or would they consider it a blatant intervention?” he asked in a thundering voice.

As the sermon came to an end and the worshipers gathered their sandals, they were reminded once more to join a pro-Houthi rally to take place later that day. Its slogan: “Against extortion and the American conspiracies and their agents... our revolution continues.”

First Iranian Flight Arrives in Rebel-Held Capital of Yemen

SANAA, Yemen — The first direct flight from Iran to Yemen's capital arrived on Sunday, as the Shiite rebels holding Sanaa formalize ties with the regional Shiite powerhouse.

The flight underscores how the rebels, known as Houthis, are strengthening their grip over state institutions and exercising sovereign power in Sanaa, even as the country's president insists he is still in charge after fleeing to the south.

Yemeni airport, security and transportation officials greeted the Mahan Air flight, an Airbus 310 carrying Iranians including aid workers from the Iranian Red Crescent.

Iran's deputy ambassador, Rasai Ebadi, told The Associated Press that the plane carried humanitarian aid including tents and 12 tons of medicine, adding that more aid would come soon.

The rebels signed an agreement with Iranian authorities in Tehran on Saturday to establish 14 direct flights per week between the two countries.

The rebels, who overran Sanaa last September, are widely believed to have support from Iran, a claim they frequently denied. Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has established a base in the southern city of Aden, from where he says he is still the country's rightful ruler.

Over the past days, Gulf countries have moved to support Hadi's claim of legitimacy, with Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait moving their embassies to Aden.

28 February 2015

Very Rare Black Hole May Be Missing Link In Evolution

“In paleontology, the discovery of certain fossils can help scientists fill in the evolutionary gaps between different dinosaurs. “We do the same thing in astronomy, but we often have to ‘dig’ up our discoveries in galaxies that are millions of light years away.”

Using observational data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) Network, the research team identified what astronomers call an “intermediate-mass black hole” (IMBH).

Black holes are known to come into 2 main classes: stellar-mass black holes that are around 5-30 times the mass of the Sun, and supermassive black holes, which are found at the center of most galaxies and weigh millions or even billions times the Sun’s mass. And as their name suggests, IMBHs fall in between these two classes, with masses ranging from a few hundred to a few hundred thousand solar masses.

Now, researchers have possibly identified one such IMBH, called NGC2276-3c, with a mass of about 50,000 times that of the Sun. This discovery could possibly answer some longstanding questions about how black holes evolve and grow over time.

“Astronomers have been looking very hard for these medium-sized black holes,” said co-author Tim Roberts, of the University of Durham. “There have been hints that they exist, but the IMBHs have been acting like a long-lost relative that isn’t interested in being found.”

Further studies of NGC2276-3c could provide insight into how black holes in the early Universe influence their surroundings, and close an important gap in the black hole family tree.

Italy pro-White rally draws thousands in Rome

The Northern League protest comes as polls suggest that it is gaining support for its attacks on austerity and immigration policies.

Thousands of supporters of Italy's Northern League have poured into one of Rome's biggest squares for a rally against immigration, the EU and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's government.

League leader Matteo Salvini accused Mr Renzi of substituting the country's interests to those of the EU.

He also criticised the government's record in dealing with Romanian truck drivers, tax, banks and big business.

A large counter-demonstration against Mr Salvini was also held in Rome.

Opinion polls suggest that Mr Salvini is rapidly gaining in popularity.

They show him as being second only to Mr Renzi, prompting some to dub him as "the other Matteo".

Mr Salvini described the government's immigration policies as "a disaster"

The Northern League was once a strong ally of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, but it has sought to find new allies as he struggles to shake off a tax fraud conviction that forced him out of parliament.

Mr Salvini's fiery rhetoric against the European Union, immigration and austerity politics had led to comparisons being drawn between him and French National Front leader Marine Le Pen.

The counter-demonstration staged by an alliance of leftist parties, anti-racism campaigners and gay rights groups was held only a few hundred metres from the Northern League rally.

Many protested under the banner "Never with Salvini".

'Foolish servant'

"The problem isn't Renzi, Renzi is a pawn, Renzi is a dumb slave, at the disposal of some nameless person who wants to control all our lives from Brussels," Mr Salvini told the rally at the Piazza del Popolo.

He told his supporters that the prime minister was the "foolish servant" of Brussels.

Mr Salvini spoke of a "different Europe, where banks count for less, and citizens and small businessmen count for more".

"I want to change Italy. I want the Italian economy to be able to move forward again, something that is obstructed by Brussels and mad European policies," he said, describing the government's immigration policies as "a disaster".

The two protests come just over two months ahead of regional elections in May.

Analysts say Mr Salvini could emulate other right-wing European leaders and capitalise on growing resentment against immigration, especially after recent attacks by Islamic extremists and the influx of migrants brought to Italy by Libyan-based smugglers.

Germany's far-right Pegida movement sets up in Scotland and plans anti-Islam march in Edinburgh

THE first demonstration by the Scottish branch of Pegida, the far-right anti-Islam movement from Germany, is planned for Edinburg this month.

Organisers of Pegida Scotland say they are in talks with police about holding an evening rally in the capital's city centre on March 21.

Pegida - a German acronym which translates as "patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the west" - has held weekly marches in Germany since October last year.

The radical group, which protests against a perceived "Islamisation" of Europe and the West, attracted 25,000 people in one rally in January following the Charlie Hebdo attacks.

Scottish organisers of Pegida told the Sunday Herald they were in regular talks with German members, who offered support and advice.

Pegida UK - another branch of the movement - held its first UK rally in Newcastle yesterday.

Around 400 far right demonstrators turned out for the march, which was backed by the British National Party (BNP), through the north-east English city.

At the same time about 1000 people, including politician George Galloway, counter-demonstrated against their extreme views, under the banner Newcastle Unites.

Russell Brand showed his support for the counter-protestors on Twitter saying: "I won't be in Newcastle today marching against racism but I'm against racism wherever I am."

Pegida insists it is not far-right and it is not racist.

A spokesman from Pegida Scotland, who asked not to be identified, said a group of organisers had been working with the German branch, and hoped to visit Berlin soon to attend a rally to "see how it's done there" and "get some ideas".

Pegida Scotland is due to hold their event on March 21 - a week after a planned protest by the Scottish Defence League outside Holyrood on March 14.

Opponents will hold counter-demonstrations at each event.

The Pegida Scotland spokesman said their Facebook page, which also claims to represent north east England, was started four weeks ago. It has more than 3300 'likes'.

A YouTube video featuring images from 9/11 and 7/7 as well as messages including "This is God's country, we are the people" was made to introduce the branch.

In a post on February 18 they said: "We have now put together a fantastic team, we hope you will be a little patient...Our mission is simple ... rid our island of Islam."

The spokesman defended their beliefs. He said: "We're just a bunch of like minded people that's against the Islamification of Europe.

"We won't tolerate any neo-Nazi elements creeping in, we're totally against that. We're in contact with the German organisers quite a lot. We spoke to them and asked how they would feel about it (setting Pegida Scotland up) .

"There isn't a group in Scotland like this. There are groups who try to highlight it but they go about it the wrong way. They have neo-Nazi elements creeping into the organisation."

The spokesman said the group would not gather in communities where they could be accused of causing tensions.

He said: "We won't be going into any areas - for talking sake - Govanhill, Pollokshields - to cause racial tensions.

"I think that was the thing with other groups - they wanted to have a demo in Govanhill. That is never going to happen (with Pegida)."

When asked to respond to accusations that Pegida is racist, the spokesman said: "I think it's very difficult when you're dealing with the left wing because no matter what you say you're just a racist, fascist, neo-Nazi knuckle dragger in their eyes...I always say it's a non-racist, non-violent organisation and that is the way it will stay."

Luke Henderson, 46, coordinator of the Edinburgh branch of Unite Against Fascism (UAF), said: "The concern around Europe is that there's been a rise of far right and racist parties and they've used Islamophobia as a means of organising and recruiting and gaining political advantage.

"We stand opposed to the racist message of far right groups and indeed groups like UKIP as well."

Henderson claimed there was an overlap between Pegida, SDL and the BNP.

He said: "They're the extremists - their Facebook pages and their members and their organisers claim to be against extremist Muslims but time and time again they make nasty and vicious statements towards all Muslims.

"No one wants to admit to being racist these days - even the racists know it's bad press."

The UAF are worried about an increase in small far-right groups.

Henderson said: "There is a toxic mix created by political parties like UKIP and mainstream parties relentlessly blaming or suggesting that immigrants are to blame for problems in this society - low wages, insecurity at work, shortage of housing, when the reality is it was the economic crash caused by the richest bankers and financiers in this country.

"It will get worse unless people stand up. That's why we organise these protests. Don't be fooled by these hardcore racists, these hardcore Nazis."

Zareen Taj, of the Muslim Women Association Edinburgh, compared the Pegida movement to Greek political party Golden Dawn, which was widely accused of being fascist.

She said: "It is very sad the SDL and Pegida are dividing communities. They claim to be against extreme Muslims but they are against any Muslim activity.

"Right wing people want to grow their members. With Golden Dawn we saw the same thing and now Pegida - they are jumping on the bandwagon."

A spokeswoman from Edinburgh City Council said they had not received notifications for SDL or Pegida marches, but some static demonstrations do not require a licence.

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: "There are numerous demonstrations in Edinburgh each year and events are policed appropriately and proportionately to allow for lawful protest and to minimise the impact on the public."

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Life 'not as we know it' possible on Saturn's moon Titan

A representation of a 9-nanometer azotosome, about the size of a virus, with a piece of the membrane cut away to show the hollow interior.

A new type of methane-based, oxygen-free life form that can metabolize and reproduce similar to life on Earth has been modeled by a team of Cornell University researchers.

Taking a simultaneously imaginative and rigidly scientific view, chemical engineers and astronomers offer a template for life that could thrive in a harsh, cold world - specifically Titan, the giant moon of Saturn. A planetary body awash with seas not of water, but of liquid methane, Titan could harbor methane-based, oxygen-free cells.

Their theorized cell membrane, composed of small organic nitrogen compounds and capable of functioning in liquid methane temperatures of 292 degrees below zero, is published in Science Advances, Feb. 27. The work is led by chemical molecular dynamics expert Paulette Clancy and first author James Stevenson, a graduate student in chemical engineering. The paper's co-author is Jonathan Lunine, director for Cornell's Center for Radiophysics and Space Research.

Lunine is an expert on Saturn's moons and an interdisciplinary scientist on the Cassini-Huygens mission that discovered methane-ethane seas on Titan. Intrigued by the possibilities of methane-based life on Titan, and armed with a grant from the Templeton Foundation to study non-aqueous life, Lunine sought assistance about a year ago from Cornell faculty with expertise in chemical modeling. Clancy, who had never met Lunine, offered to help.

"We're not biologists, and we're not astronomers, but we had the right tools," Clancy said. "Perhaps it helped, because we didn't come in with any preconceptions about what should be in a membrane and what shouldn't. We just worked with the compounds that we knew were there and asked, 'If this was your palette, what can you make out of that?'"

On Earth, life is based on the phospholipid bilayer membrane, the strong, permeable, water-based vesicle that houses the organic matter of every cell. A vesicle made from such a membrane is called a liposome. Thus, many astronomers seek extraterrestrial life in what's called the circumstellar habitable zone, the narrow band around the sun in which liquid water can exist. But what if cells weren't based on water, but on methane, which has a much lower freezing point?

The engineers named their theorized cell membrane an "azotosome," "azote" being the French word for nitrogen. "Liposome" comes from the Greek "lipos" and "soma" to mean "lipid body;" by analogy, "azotosome" means "nitrogen body."

The azotosome is made from nitrogen, carbon and hydrogen molecules known to exist in the cryogenic seas of Titan, but shows the same stability and flexibility that Earth's analogous liposome does. This came as a surprise to chemists like Clancy and Stevenson, who had never thought about the mechanics of cell stability before; they usually study semiconductors, not cells.

The engineers employed a molecular dynamics method that screened for candidate compounds from methane for self-assembly into membrane-like structures. The most promising compound they found is an acrylonitrile azotosome, which showed good stability, a strong barrier to decomposition, and a flexibility similar to that of phospholipid membranes on Earth. Acrylonitrile - a colorless, poisonous, liquid organic compound used in the manufacture of acrylic fibers, resins and thermoplastics - is present in Titan's atmosphere.

Excited by the initial proof of concept, Clancy said the next step is to try and demonstrate how these cells would behave in the methane environment - what might be the analogue to reproduction and metabolism in oxygen-free, methane-based cells.

Lunine looks forward to the long-term prospect of testing these ideas on Titan itself, as he put it, by "someday sending a probe to float on the seas of this amazing moon and directly sampling the organics."

Stevenson said he was in part inspired by science fiction writer Isaac Asimov, who wrote about the concept of non-water-based life in a 1962 essay, "Not as We Know It."

Said Stevenson: "Ours is the first concrete blueprint of life not as we know it."

Spectacular insights into the early life of galaxies

Astronomers at the Very Large Telescope have taken the best 3D-pictures of the early universe ever. They discovered objects emitting so little light that the Hubble Telescope could not find them.

Astronomers, who want to look deep into the universe and back in time must focus their telescopes on the same place in the sky for as long as possible. This is how researchers take so-called deep-field pictures.

The most wellknown of them come from the Hubble Space Telecope. In 1995 astronomers first focused on a region of the skies in the Northern Hemisphere to research galaxies that are extremely far away and in early stages of their development.

Three years later, the astronomers selected a region of the skies in the Southern Hemisphere where they repeated the observation procedure for ten days.

The resulting pictures are considered a milestone in cosmology. Researchers found a lot of valuable information in them, helping them to check previous theories and models like the question whether the universe really looks the same everywhere. And indeed: The pictures showed many galaxies of similar shapes and colors.

The universe as wee see it

Theoretically, everything that we see today developed out of a hot, homogenous gas. That includes stars and galaxies like our Milky Way. Soon after the Big Bang, dark matter triggered the compression of that gas into matter as we know it today. Wherever that mysterious dark matter was, the matter we find today was concentrating.

In the small boxes one can see the objects, newly discovered with the MUSE Instrument.

Over billions of years the structures got bigger and bigger. The first stars and galaxies and eventually also the large spiral galaxies like the Milky Way emerged. How these structures developed and will develop in the future is a central question of astronomy. To answer that question, astronomers need the most detailed pictures possible of galaxies in different stages of their development.

Celestial Secrets

So far research has shown that the Milky Way has grown by cannibalizing other galaxies - grabbing stars, pulling them away and even swallowing some. Astronomers have seen many such incidents where galaxies get intermingled and eventually merge.

Even our Milky Way and the neighboring Andromeda galaxy are on a collision course. Both are racing toward at each other with a speed of 400.000 kilometers per hour. Their gravity will eventually bind them together and make one huge elliptic galaxy out of them.

The early stages in the development of galaxies is largely unknown. Very young galaxies are so far away from us that even deep-field pictures taken by the Hubble Space Telescope are unable to deliver that information.

A new window into the universe

Last year scientists started using the new Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile, including the Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer MUSE. It combines observations of the skies with spectroscopy. For each pixel in a picture it provides a spectrum, disclosing the intensity of different colors of light at that point. This enables the scientists to study different views of a given object at different wavelengths.

Now the astronomers used MUSE to observe the same area in the southern skies that Hubble observed in 1998. Hubble had ten days for its observation, Muse only took 27 hours. Nonetheless, Muse discovered more than 20 new objects, which Hubble was unable to see. The researchers are thrilled.

This is, how the Merger between Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy could look like in four Million years.

"After only a few hours we looked at the data and already identified several new galaxies," project head Roland Bacon from the French Centre de Recherche Astrophysique de Lyon said. "This was very encouraging. It is like finding fish in the deep sea: Every new catch triggers lots of excitement about what kind of species we may have found."

The three-dimensional picture of the early universe shows: With MUSE, astronomers can research the makeup and distance of far away galaxies and even movements within these galaxies very precisely. This will help scientists to understand what was happening when these galaxies were born.

24 February 2015

One Fifth of Germans Call for Revolution, a Third Reject Capitalism

A rally by the anti-Islam group Pegida in Dresden, Germany. A new study has warned that Germany’s political centre is under attack from a ‘new irrationalism’

One in five Germans believe revolution and not reform is the best way to preserve living standards, according to a new study warning that Germany’s political centre is under attack from a “new irrationalism”.

Some 60 per cent of Germans quizzed by researchers at Berlin’s Free University described their homeland as an imperfect democracy where business has a greater say on daily life than voters. More than a third - 37 per cent - agreed that capitalism leads “inevitably to poverty and hunger”.

The 650-page survey, titled Against State and Capital - For the Revolution, is based on a representative survey by the Infratest dimap polling agency.

The study began life as a study of structural similarities between thinking in Germany’s extreme-left and extreme-right camps, in particular doctrinal fanaticism and claims to hold a monopoly on truth.

In total, the researchers found that about one sixth of Germans hold left-radical views, with some four per cent having a closed hard-left world view.

Some 14 per cent back violence against “the system” while nearly half - 46 per cent - spoke in favour of abolishing the state’s monopoly on the use of force.

Suspicion of government

Researchers noted in the results a growing suspicion of central government and of mainstream media, as well as an openness to conspiracy theories.

Recent developments suggest such thinking has already seeped into the German mainstream, from the rise of the Islam-critical Pegida movement in Saxony to empathy with Russia in the Ukraine standoff, twinned with suspicion at the influence of Nato and the role of Berlin.

For researchers, the data shows a clear, sizeable bloc of those who are anti-capitalist, anti-fascist and thinking critically about democracy in Germany.

A quarter-century after German unification, researchers said the results identified a “left-wing extremist potential” of 17 per cent in western Germany’s population, with a potential of 28 per cent in the former socialist east.

Some 42 per cent of the total German population saw socialism as a “good idea, poorly implemented”,a figure which rose to 59 per cent in eastern Germany. Some 41 per cent of the population agreed that “social equality for all is more important than freedom of the individual”.

With an eye on the recent NSA-Snowden affair, some 27 per cent fear state surveillance has put Germany on a slippery slope to a new dictatorship.

Anti-establishment thinking

The spread of anti-establishment thinking can be seen beyond the usual quarters, particularly in the rise of the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party. Its eurosceptic, bailout-critical platform has found equal favour with older western German conservatives and eastern German left-wing voters, as well as with hard-left and extreme-right camps.

Seven decades after the second World War ended, the researchers have sounded the alarm bell, saying “outdated anti-fascist” thinking that “suns itself in its moral superiority” has done little to stop a drift from the political centre.

“Political danger is looming at the fringes,” the authors warn, “not least through old resentments and new irrationalism that has declared war on reason.”