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People Who Fear Every Sound: What is Hyperekplexia?


AccordIng to some professors, It’s a dIvIne partIcle…

We are talking about an organ that makes humans human and takes on the task of managing the entire body. While trying to solve all the complexities, it is actually the biggest complexity. This complexity has yet to lead us to enlightenment. The discovery of the human brain dates back to the 1820s, but all its secrets have yet to be unravelled. Every mystery of the brain that remains closed also brings a new neurological disease. Today, we are examining a rare neurological disease: Hyperekplexia.


People can be afraid of many things in daily life. The brain is constantly alert, especially to sudden stimuli. Our common startle reflex allows us to protect ourselves from stimuli. However, for patients with Hyperekplexia, this is a complex neurological problem. Hyperekplexia is the condition of being excessively sensitive to sudden auditory, tactile, and visual external stimuli and giving a pronounced startle response.


Hyperekplexia is caused by the inability of the substance called glycine, one of the major neurotransmitters that significantly affect the central and peripheral nervous systems, to exhibit its inhibitory effect, particularly in the brainstem. It is not epileptic. It is a paroxysmal (sudden and temporary) disorder. In some cases, it can be hereditary. The gene carrying this disease can be recessive or dominant. Hyperekplexia is also the first disease in human physiology to show a mutation in neurotransmitter genes.


This disease starts from infancy. In some cases, it has been observed that the baby tends to startle frequently, even while in the womb. As they age, cases with responsibilities such as attending school and joining social classes have failed in these areas. Cases exposed to childish pranks first and then peer bullying have also been found to have many psychosomatic illnesses along with Hyperekplexia. Particularly in some cases, a significant level of anxiety has been observed. For this reason, problems with lesson failure and lack of focus have also been encountered.


Hyperekplexia is hereditary, and it can be seen in many siblings. This leads to different problems. The occurrence of this disease in many members of a family indicates that the individuals in the family are also prone to psychological illnesses.

In a family case studied at Elazığ Fırat University Faculty of Medicine, the disease was detected in three members of a five-person family. This family was also receiving support from the faculty’s child-adolescent-adult mental health centre. Many psychological disorders such as anxiety, substance use, behavioural disorders, hyperactivity, and incompatibility with social life were also seen in family members.

It is known that diagnosing the disease at a young age makes treatment easier and more effective. However, because it is a neurological disease, it does not follow the same course in every case. It is quite difficult to make the correct diagnosis of this disease. Patients need to be very careful about sudden stimuli, and families must be dedicated, which plays a vital role in the course of the disease.

Due to the high prevalence of consanguineous marriages in our country, hereditary diseases are also an important problem for us. Even in such a rare hereditary disease, there are quite a few cases in our country. As a nation, we must be aware of this issue and take the necessary actions. Otherwise, due to such neurological diseases affecting the family tree, many innocent people are victimized, and innocent children begin to suffer even in the womb.

To read the original Turkish version of this article, click here.



Main image: Pexels

Vivid portrait of interacting galaxies marks Webb’s second anniversary


A duo of interacting galaxies known as Arp 142 commemorates the second science anniversary of the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope. Their ongoing interaction was set in motion between 25 and 75 million years ago when the Penguin (individually catalogued as NGC 2937) and the Egg (NGC 2937) completed their first pass. They will go on to shimmy and sway, completing several additional loops before merging into a single galaxy hundreds of millions of years from now.

The James Webb Space Telescope takes constant observations, including images and highly detailed data known as spectra. Its operations have led to a ‘parade’ of discoveries by astronomers around the world. It has never felt more possible to explore every facet of the Universe.

The telescope’s specialisation in capturing infrared light – which is beyond what our own eyes can detect – shows these galaxies, collectively known as Arp 142, locked in a slow cosmic dance. Webb’s observations (which combine near- and mid-infrared light from Webb’s NIRCam [Near-InfraRed Camera] and MIRI [Mid-Infrared Instrument], respectively) clearly show that they are joined by a blue haze that is a mix of stars and gas, a result of their mingling.

Let’s dance

Before their first approach, the Penguin held the shape of a spiral. Today, its galactic centre gleams like an eye, its unwound arms now shaping a beak, head, backbone, and fanned-out tail.

Like all spiral galaxies, the Penguin is still very rich in gas and dust. The galaxies’ ‘dance’ pulled gravitationally on the Penguin’s thinner areas of gas and dust, causing them to crash in waves and form stars. Look for those areas in two places: what looks like a fish in its ‘beak’ and the ‘feathers’ in its “‘tail’.

Surrounding these newer stars is smoke-like material that includes carbon-containing molecules, known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which Webb is exceptional at detecting. Dust, seen as fainter, deeper orange arcs also swoops from its beak to tail feathers.

In contrast, the Egg’s compact shape remains largely unchanged. As an elliptical galaxy, it is filled with ageing stars, and has a lot less gas and dust that can be pulled away to form new stars. If both were spiral galaxies, each would end the first ‘twist’ with new star formation and twirling curls, known as tidal tails.

Another reason for the Egg’s undisturbed appearance is that these galaxies have approximately the same mass, which is why the smaller-looking elliptical wasn’t consumed or distorted by the Penguin.

Interacting galaxies Arp 142 (NIRCam and MIRI image)

It is estimated that the Penguin and the Egg are about 100,000 light-years apart — quite close in astronomical terms. For context, the Milky Way galaxy and our nearest neighbour, the Andromeda Galaxy, are about 2.5 million light-years apart, about 30 times the distance. They too will interact, but not for about 4 billion years.

In the top right of the image is an edge-on galaxy, catalogued PGC 1237172, which resides 100 million light-years closer to Earth. It’s also quite young, teeming with new, blue stars. In Webb’s mid-infrared-only image, PGC 1237172 practically disappears. Mid-infrared light largely captures cooler, older stars and an incredible amount of dust. Since the galaxy’s stellar population is so young, it ‘vanishes’ in mid-infrared light.

Webb’s image is also overflowing with distant galaxies. Some have spiral and oval shapes, like those threaded throughout the Penguin’s ‘tail feathers’, while others scattered throughout are shapeless dots. This is a testament to the sensitivity and resolution of the telescope’s infrared instruments. (Compare Webb’s view to the 2013 image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope here.) Even though these observations only took a few hours, Webb revealed far more distant, redder, and dustier galaxies than previous telescopes — one more reason to expect Webb to continue to expand our understanding of everything in the Universe.

Arp 142 lies 326 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Hydra.

Interacting galaxies Arp 142 (Hubble and Webb image)

Second year of science operations: in review

Over its second year of operations Webb has advanced its science goals with new discoveries about other worlds, the lifecycle of stars, the early Universe and galaxies over time. Astronomers have learned about what conditions rocky planets can form in and detected icy ingredients for worlds, found tellurium created in star mergers and studied the supernova remnants SN 1987A and the Crab Nebula.

Looking into the distant past, Webb has solved the mysteries of how the Universe was reionised and hydrogen emission from galaxy mergers, and seen the most distant black hole merger and galaxy ever observed. Observations with Webb have also confirmed the long-standing tension between measurements of the Hubble constant, deepening a different mystery around the Universe’s expansion rate.

Webb has continued to produce incredible images of the cosmos, from the detailed beauty of the Ring Nebula, to supernova remnant Cassiopeia A, to a team effort with the the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and ESA’s Euclid telescope looking at the iconic Horsehead Nebula. Webb imagery was also combined with visible light observations from Hubble to create one of the most comprehensive views of the Universe ever, an image of galaxy cluster MACS 0416.

Interacting galaxies Arp 142 (NIRCam image, rotated full-field)

All images in this article are courtesy of esawebb.org
The main image shows the interacting galaxies Arp 142 (MIRI image).

“China Will Be the First Country to Have 100 Million, Then 1 Billion Robots”

Increasing water and food shortages, along with declining birth rates, are making artificial intelligence (AI) technologies even more critical for the future of countries. China is likely to be leading the way in the development of AI, especially in autonomous systems. Stability AI CEO Emad Mostaque, who produces AI tools, made an important prediction about China’s AI efforts in a post on X.

In his post on X yesterday, Mostaque said that China would be the first country to have 100 million, then 1 billion robots. He also noted that many had not anticipated this scenario.

On the same day, Elon Musk posted on X, saying, “There will be more robots than humans in the future.”

It is evident that robots are greatly needed in heavy industry and the medical sector. China’s plans in this regard have already been put into action. China plans to start mass production of humanoid robots in 2025.

In early November, the Beijing Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) released a guideline explaining the goals for humanoid robot production. According to the guideline, groundbreaking developments in fundamental technology areas will occur with the production of humanoid robots and essential components will be ensured in a secure and efficient supply. According to the plan, humanoid robots will become a ‘new engine’ (driving force) for China’s economic growth by 2027.

Under the MIIT plans, the use of humanoid robots in key areas such as healthcare, domestic services, agriculture, and logistics will increase in the coming years. At the same time, the use of robots in areas that are dangerous to humans in the manufacturing sector will become widespread.

China’s goal is not only the mass production of humanoid robots but also to become a world leader in this field. In this context, industry standards will be developed, product testing capacity will be increased, and laboratories, industry organizations, and open source communities will be established. China also wants to be pioneering in setting international rules and standards in the global humanoid robot industry.

500 Robots for Every 10,000 Workers

In August 2023, Beijing announced that it would increase funding for robotics by $1.4 billion to accelerate the development of robotic technologies. China, which published the “Robot + Application Action Plan” at the beginning of 2024, aims to spread automation technologies in 10 industries. These industries are manufacturing, agriculture, architecture, logistics, energy, healthcare, education, elderly care services, commercial community services, emergencies, and advanced environmental applications.

China plans to assign 500 robots for every 10,000 workers by 2025. According to information from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), the use of robots in China has also increased rapidly in recent years. In 2021, China witnessed the addition of 243,000 new industrial robots, a 44% increase compared to the previous year. With this increase, China rose from being the ninth country with the most robotic equipment in 2020 to the fifth place in 2021, surpassing the USA, Hong Kong, and Sweden.

Remember the movie I, Robot?

Source: therobotreport.com
Main image: Aideal Hwa/Unsplash

Hubble finds strong evidence for intermediate-mass black hole in Omega Centauri


An international team of astronomers has used more than 500 images from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope spanning two decades to detect seven fast-moving stars in the innermost region of Omega Centauri, the largest and brightest globular cluster in the sky. These stars provide compelling new evidence for the presence of an intermediate-mass black hole.

Intermediate-mass black holes (IMBHs) are a long-sought ‘missing link’ in black hole evolution. Only a few other IMBH candidates have been found to date. Most known black holes are either extremely massive, like the supermassive black holes that lie at the cores of large galaxies, or relatively lightweight, with a mass less than 100 times that of the Sun. Black holes are one of the most extreme environments humans are aware of, and so they are a testing ground for the laws of physics and our understanding of how the Universe works. If IMBHs exist, how common are they? Does a supermassive black hole grow from an IMBH? How do IMBHs themselves form? Are dense star clusters their favoured home?

Omega Centauri is visible from Earth with the naked eye and is one of the favourite celestial objects for stargazers in the southern hemisphere. Although the cluster is 17 700 light-years away, lying just above the plane of the Milky Way, it appears almost as large as the full Moon when seen from a dark rural area. The exact classification of Omega Centauri has evolved through time, as our ability to study it has improved. It was first listed in Ptolemy’s catalogue nearly two thousand years ago as a single star. Edmond Halley reported it as a nebula in 1677, and in the 1830s the English astronomer John Herschel was the first to recognise it as a globular cluster.

Globular clusters typically consist of up to one million old stars tightly bound together by gravity and are found both in the outskirts and central regions of many galaxies, including our own. Omega Centauri has several characteristics that distinguish it from other globular clusters: it rotates faster than a run-of-the-mill globular cluster, and its shape is highly flattened. Moreover, Omega Centauri is about 10 times as massive as other big globular clusters, almost as massive as a small galaxy.

Omega Centauri consists of roughly 10 million stars that are gravitationally bound. An international team has now created an enormous catalogue of the motions of these stars, measuring the velocities for 1.4 million stars by studying over 500 Hubble images of the cluster. Most of these observations were intended to calibrate Hubble’s instruments rather than for scientific use, but they turned out to be an ideal database for the team’s research efforts. The extensive catalogue, which is the largest catalogue of motions for any star cluster to date, will be made openly available (more information is available here).

“We discovered seven stars that should not be there,” explained Maximilian Häberle of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany, who led this investigation. “They are moving so fast that they should escape the cluster and never come back. The most likely explanation is that a very massive object is gravitationally pulling on these stars and keeping them close to the centre. The only object that can be so massive is a black hole, with a mass at least 8200 times that of our Sun.”

Several studies have suggested the presence of an IMBH in Omega Centauri [1]. However, other studies proposed that the mass could be contributed by a central cluster of stellar-mass black holes, and had suggested the lack of fast-moving stars above the necessary escape velocity made an IMBH less likely in comparison.

“This discovery is the most direct evidence so far of an IMBH in Omega Centauri,” added team lead Nadine Neumayer, also of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, who initiated the study with Anil Seth of the University of Utah in the United States. “This is exciting because there are only very few other black holes known with a similar mass. The black hole in Omega Centauri may be the best example of an IMBH in our cosmic neighbourhood.”

If confirmed, at its distance of 17 700 light-years the candidate black hole resides closer to Earth than the 4.3 million solar mass black hole in the centre of the Milky Way, which is 26 000 light-years away. Besides the Galactic centre, it would also be the only known case of a number of stars closely bound to a massive black hole.

The science team now hopes to characterise the black hole. While it is believed to measure at least 8200 solar masses, its exact mass and its precise position are not fully known. The team also intends to study the orbits of the fast-moving stars, which requires additional measurements of the respective line-of-sight velocities. The team has been granted time with the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope to do just that, and also has other pending proposals to use other observatories.

Omega Centauri was also a recent feature of a new data release from ESA’s Gaia mission, which contained over 500 000 stars. “Even after 30 years, the Hubble Space Telescope with its imaging instruments is still one of the best tools for high-precision astrometry in crowded stellar fields, regions where Hubble can provide added sensitivity from ESA’s Gaia mission observations,” shared team member Mattia Libralato of the National Institute for Astrophysics in Italy (INAF), and previously of AURA for the European Space Agency during the time of this study. “Our results showcase Hubble’s high resolution and sensitivity that are giving us exciting new scientific insights and will give a new boost to the topic of IMBHs in globular clusters.”

The results have been published online today in the journal Nature.

[1] In 2008, the Hubble Space Telescope and the Gemini Observatory found that the explanation behind Omega Centauri’s peculiarities may be a black hole hidden in its centre.

Main image: ESA/Hubble & NASA, M. Häberle (MPIA)

A Mirror to Today’s World: The Experiment “Universe 25”

Since the discovery of writing, we know that humanity has wanted to know themselves. Humans first started with themselves to suppress the most heartfelt and voracious drive for discovery. Today, one of the greatest existential problems of the 21st century remains unchanged. The urges that make us ask, “What is a human, from the core to the whole?” still haven’t received the answers they seek, unfortunately.

Even though it is a subject of groundless debates, I fully support the notion that “humans are social beings.” Of course, exceptions exist, and contrary to what is believed, I think the number of asocial or people who dislike others is higher. I suggest it is around 20% for all societies. I’m not saying this randomly; I’m basing it on the famous 80-20 rule named after the economist Vilfredo Pareto.

What Is the 80-20 Rule?: Introduced by an Important thInker In management, Joseph M. Juran. It gets Its name from the ItalIan economIst Vilfredo Pareto, who observed that 20% of people owned 80% of the land. ThIs rule fundamentally relies on the Idea that in any sItuatIon, a large majorIty of results come from a small number of causes.

Therefore, regardless of the ratio, it doesn’t change the fact that these people are among us. Some call it nature, creation, taste, interest, or education. I think it’s an unnecessary subject to dwell on because accepting people as they are is the best and most correct way from every perspective. The biggest mistake is attempting to change them.

Society is made up of clusters; when you separate them into individual parts, you feel the colours changing, the smells distinguishing from one another, and the sounds differentiating. However, from the outside, society generally presents a whole appearance.

Attributing the problem to the whole is usually an attitude exclusive to the military. Although we think the punishments given or not given affect the individual, in the end, society itself is the one that suffers. How? Like other living beings, humans interact. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying they talk to each other. “Interacting” happens in the daily manner we frequently do, such as sitting next to each other, looking at each other’s faces, touching, or walking side by side or in the same line, and we don’t need to know each other for this. Therefore, individuals are smaller parts with the capacity to affect the general society in a domino effect, whether we like it or not.

Within the individual, there are areas where the 80-20 rule is valid. For example, while an individual realizes 80% of their education, 20% of the contribution comes from their family and surrounding people. Despite receiving the same familial education, two individuals from the same household can have entirely different personalities. One can be very depressive/aggressive and active, while the other can be more delicate/naïve and passive. These kinds of examples can be extended for pages. These individuals choose 80% of their education based on their tastes, preferences, and orientations, and their personalities are shaped in this direction. For this reason, the most crucial part of society is not the family but the individual themselves.

Another important factor for society is the population. Every population and the living beings that form it have a certain number/quantity they should be in nature. There is a specific number of people that can live in a given area, for example, the entire globe. Although there isn’t an exact number, it is estimated between 9.5 billion and 10 billion. These values are calculated over a long time considering all other needs such as food, water, energy, space, etc.

So, what happens if our number exceeds this calculation significantly, for example, reaching 14 billion? Let’s talk about an experiment that answered this question and find the answer there.

The Universe 25 experiment is a well-known study among enthusiasts. John B. Calhoun designs an experiment where initially, eight healthy and happy mice (4 males and 4 females) are carefully selected. These mice are placed in a carefully designed, comfortable cage setup with rooms, a large plaza, and stairs. Furthermore, until the end of the experiment, none of the mice were allowed to suffer from a lack of food or water; they lived in great abundance regarding food and water.

The Universe 25 experiment took place in an aquarium with a base area of 6.25 square meters and a height of 90 centimetres. On each wall of the aquarium, there are 16 tunnels rising to a height of 50 centimetres, and each tunnel contains four rooms. The aquarium has a total of 256 rooms, meaning that when packed like sardines, the aquarium could hold 5-6 thousand mice, including the ground. Other than feeding the mice regularly and cleaning the aquarium’s floor every six weeks, there is no external intervention for the mice throughout the experiment.
On the 105th day, the first individual of the second generation of mice is born, and the total number of mice in the aquarium rises to 9. Seeing no problems, the mice increase their breeding rate, doubling the population every 55 days.

This situation leads to an excessively rapid increase in population. The mouse population, which was 8 in the first 104 days, exceeded 600 by the 315th day. From this point, the crowded population starts to trigger chaos. Mice cannot play or feed comfortably as they wish. Additionally, competition among male mice causes the weaker ones to lose their nests.
Chaos naturally triggers violence. Mice that have to stay on the ground because they lost their nests attack, bite, or chase the mice next to them due to the anger of not having their territory. Violence spreads from the ground to the rooms, with ground mice raiding rooms, killing the mice inside, and taking over the rooms.

While all this is happening, the amount of food and water provided increases proportionally with the mouse population. So, hunger is not what triggers the mice’s violence. Moreover, remember that we mentioned at the beginning of the article that the aquarium could accommodate 5-6 thousand mice. However, chaos and violence broke out even when it reached only 10% of this capacity. Female mice, to avoid competing with males, start living alone and eat some of their young. The mice Calhoun calls ‘beautiful ones’ separate from the others and withdraw to the upper rooms. These mice, detached from society enough to close the doors of their rooms, stop reproducing after a while and enter a sort of safe mode in their lives.

Cannibalism, infanticide, and infectious diseases run rampant among the remaining mouse society in the experiment. Some male mice try to mate with all females, similar to the dominant male monkeys in monkey colonies. Considering that mating is the second non-negotiable point after food for males, it’s understandable that this behaviour increases murders among males.

By the 560th day, the mouse population reaches 2200. However, due to the effects of chaos and violence, the incredibly high mouse population begins to decline rapidly. Only 50 days later, on the 610th day of the experiment, the mouse population dropped below 100. At this point, society is divided into two groups: the ‘elite’ living on the upper floors, avoiding chaos, and those who survived by killing their rivals in a fierce struggle.

At this point, a strange observation occurs. Despite the living conditions being the same between the first 100 mice living on the 250th day and the last 100 mice living on the 610th day, the last remaining 100 mice cannot reach a similar level of welfare due to the painful memories of the past. With the death of the last female on the 650th day, the lineage of the lucky 8 ends entirely.

This experiment has often been used in population planning propaganda. However, it has clearly shown how chaos can arise in overly crowded societies despite their needs being met. The experiment beautifully demonstrated how individuals become aggressive, and society turns hostile, eventually destroying itself when their free spaces are narrowed.

Main photo: Yoichi R Okamoto/Wikipedia
This article is from 2020. To read the original version in Turkish, click here.

Seven Reasons Why a Journey to Mars Could Be Fatal

We know that in order to ensure the continuation of humanity, we need to set foot on Mars. The depletion of known resources on Earth is also reinforcing the necessity of stepping onto a new planet to prevent energy wars.

The journey to Mars, which is becoming increasingly exciting with the investments of private aerospace companies, could become a reality in just eight years, according to SpaceX founder Elon Musk.

Although Musk’s presentation at the 67th International Astronomical Congress outlined the general plan for the journey to Mars, there are many steps that need to be addressed. Otherwise, death could be inevitable. As Musk said, “Volunteers must be willing to risk death.”


Your Rocket Could Explode Before Leaving Earth

The Interplanetary Transport System plans to send humans to Mars with the BFS (Big Fu**king Spaceship) rocket, which has a capacity of 200 passengers.

The rocket, with its 121-meter length, will be the largest spacecraft in the history of space exploration. The BFS, which needs to have terrifyingly powerful engines with 550,000 tons of thrust, must possess perfect engineering to avoid accidents before even exiting the atmosphere.

Many accidents have occurred, even in recent orbital missions. Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket exploded, Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo spacecraft crashed, Roscosmos’s Proton space capsule lost control and broke into pieces, and Japan’s satellite Hitomi was lost.

SpaceX also lost a Falcon 9 in June 2015, followed by another one in September 2016 in a similar fashion.

Looking at the statistics, in NASA’s Space Shuttle Program, which carried 833 crew members between 1981 and 2011, 14 people died (Challenger and Columbia accidents). The death rate of 1.6% is less than that of climbing Everest today. In the Apollo program, the death rate was 9%.

The BFR (Big F**king Rocket) that will power the BFS will use next-generation Raptor engines. It will take years for the reusable rocket, which will detach from the spacecraft in orbit and land again, to be as flawless as the massive loads it will carry.


Radiation Could Fry You Before Reaching Mars

One of the most important details not included in Musk’s presentation is how the BFS will be protected from cosmic radiation. In fact, this is the item that has delayed NASA’s Mars travel plans the most.

As a reusable spacecraft, the BFS will shuttle between Earth and Mars. This means it needs to have an enormous shield to protect against energy-laden particles emitted from the sun. However, we do not yet know how this will be achieved, and the question of whether a radiation-affected spacecraft can be reused must also be answered.

According to data obtained during NASA’s Curiosity journey, a one-way trip that will last nine months without protection would expose astronauts to 0.3 sieverts of radiation. This is equivalent to undergoing 24 CAT scans. In other words, it is 15 times the annual radiation limit for nuclear power plant workers. Although the death threshold is 8 sieverts, radiation can cause many problems in the body.

Chris McKay from NASA’s Ames Research Center says, “The problem can be solved with water, which blocks radiation best,” but the real problem will begin once we set foot on Mars. According to Curiosity’s data, 500 days on Mars means another 0.3 sieverts.


You Could Crash During the Landing on Mars

As we recently remembered from the Rosetta mission, which ended its space exploration mission, landing and takeoff are the most critical moments for spacecraft. The Philae probe sent from Rosetta failed to land properly on comet 67P, and the months-long data collection efforts were in vain.

Remembering how NASA’s nail-biting “7 minutes of terror” mission of Curiosity ended in joy, we understand the difficulty of these missions better.

According to Musk’s plan, the BFS will enter Mars’ atmosphere at a speed of 100,000 kilometres per hour. During the descent to the red sands, it will use the “super retro propulsion system.” In other words, the system that allows the Falcon 9 rocket to land. Naturally, this technology will be greatly developed for the BFS.

More importantly, the critical manoeuvre that allows the Falcon 9 to land vertically will be much more difficult for the BFS in Mars’ atmosphere. Landing on Mars, which has a much thinner atmosphere, will be a challenge, with every detail from the amount of fuel the BFS will use to the heat shield that must withstand at least 1700 degrees being very important. The slightest mistake means inevitable death.

Remembering the historic landing of the 1-ton Curiosity, it is also worth noting that the BFS will have a carrying capacity of 550 tons.


Mars’ Atmosphere Could Wreck the Human Body

McKay says, “It’s rarely portrayed in movies, but the atmosphere of Mars is actually one of our biggest concerns.” This means:

We know that being in a zero-gravity environment has negative effects on muscle and bone structure. Crew members working on the International Space Station (ISS) have to exercise at least 2 hours a day to prevent muscle and bone loss. While muscles can be regained, the calcium lost in bones is only produced when they return to Earth.

There is a belief that we won’t have much difficulty on Mars, which has an atmosphere one-tenth of Earth’s and a gravitational force of 0.38. Some movies even depicted that we could jump like Super Mario.

However, McKay says we won’t understand the effect of the 0.38G force on Mars until we actually send someone there.


We Can’t Be Exposed to Mars’ Atmosphere

Even if the journey to Mars is successful, a more challenging survival struggle will begin from the moment we set foot. If the cargo sent before humans does not suffer any damage and the first colonists can survive with sufficient oxygen, food, and shelter, a very critical stage will be behind us.

The danger, however, lies in the accidents that could occur during the extremely challenging colonization process. As we somewhat understood from the movie “The Martian,” even the smallest leak can lead to deadly consequences. Mars storms, which turn everything into dust and dirt, are also a serious concern. McKay says, “If the airlock door or astronaut suits get dusty, this could cause serious problems, unlike on Earth.”

Musk’s current statements are geared towards long-term survival strategies. He believes in establishing a sustainable colony with machines that will break down the abnormal amount of carbon dioxide on the Red Planet into oxygen, solar panels that will generate energy, and geothermal plants that will convert the Mars ice (underground) into water and energy.

Musk had also suggested methods like melting the poles with thermonuclear bombs or heating the atmosphere by injecting carbon dioxide. By warming the planet, ocean formation could be achieved again. However, if there’s one thing I learned from Planetbase, it’s that even walking on Mars will be difficult.


Mars Soil Could Poison the Colonists

In the movie “The Martian,” astronaut Mark Whitney fights the significant damage to his base caused by storms with winds of 90 km/h. In reality, Mars, which has a super-thin atmosphere, does not produce storms as severe as those on Earth at that speed.

While it may not be easy to affect structures, the most challenging part of Mars storms is that they can last for days or even weeks (we mentioned walking would be difficult). Countless grains of sand can puncture astronaut suits and damage food and supplies, machinery, computers, and communication systems.

On top of the problems that could arise in basic life units due to sandstorms, Mars soil is toxic. The soil covered with red sand is rich in perchlorate, a salt that harms the thyroid gland. You can hold Mars soil in your hand, but if it gets into water or food, it can be deadly. In short, using Mars soil for food production is very risky.

Another risk highlighted by McKay is the potential, yet unconfirmed, presence of bacteria. The emergence of alien bacteria harmful to human health could catch unprepared colonists off guard.

The exploration vehicle and satellites to be sent before the Mars journey need to perform exceptionally well.


Your Friends in the Colony Could Drive You Crazy

I remember first encountering this issue in the 2000 movie “Red Planet.” Although it may seem like the last thing to consider, the relationship you will build with your companions on the Mars journey is another extremely challenging issue.

According to the dates given by SpaceX and NASA, the journey will last between 80 and 270 days, so there must be plenty of things to do to keep people from losing their minds. The narrowing of personal space, the impossibilities, and the extremely challenging conditions will, over time, lead to many minor problems like insomnia, disagreements, and stress, as seen in “Interstellar” and “Europa Report.”

The good news is that NASA can find people with nerves of steel ready for Mars missions in its long-term experiments. The latest of these experiments was conducted in Hawaii. Six astronaut candidates spent 366 days in a Mars home prototype offering a total area of 111.4 square meters and an 11-meter diameter.

In the experiment in Hawaii, the six subjects did not leave the living area except for exploration walks. In their spare time, they engaged in many activities, from playing the harmonica to learning French. They noted that the biggest problem was not boredom but “over-exertion.” Over time, the team, which began to spend their time playing board games and quickly serving frozen foods, got their lives in order.

Although each of them stated that returning to normal life was an incredible experience, many people are willing to leave behind warm dinners and swimming pools. In the MARS-500 project, organized in different periods between 2007-2011 in a facility in Moscow with six-person teams, there was no conflict among the colonist candidates.

Despite recent good results, we do not know what could happen on a real Mars journey. In a living experiment called Biosphere II held in Arizona in 1994, a team of seven split into two groups after getting into a fight. The project was terminated before its completion date.

People to be sent to Mars in the next 40 to 60 years need to be very well selected. Personally, I believe many of them should be logical thinkers and ego-free individuals. Perhaps a civilization opposite to that on Earth could be born through good filtering.


This article is from 2016. To read the original Turkish version, click here.
Main image: ElonMusk/X

Webb captures star clusters in Cosmic Gems arc


An international team of astronomers have used the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope to discover gravitationally bound star clusters when the Universe was 460 million years old. This is the first discovery of star clusters in an infant galaxy less than 500 million years after the Big bang.

Young galaxies in the early Universe underwent significant burst phases of star formation, generating substantial amounts of ionising radiation. However, because of their cosmological distances, direct studies of their stellar content have proven challenging. Using Webb, an international team of astronomers have now detected five young massive star clusters in the Cosmic Gems arc (SPT0615-JD1), a strongly-lensed galaxy emitting light when the Universe was roughly 460 million years old, looking back across 97% of cosmic time.

The Cosmic Gems arc was initially discovered in NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope images obtained by the RELICS (Reionization Lensing Cluster Survey) programme of the lensing galaxy cluster SPT-CL J0615−5746.

“These galaxies are thought to be a prime source of the intense radiation that reionised the early Universe,” shared lead author Angela Adamo of Stockholm University and the Oskar Klein Centre in Sweden. “What is special about the Cosmic Gems arc is that thanks to gravitational lensing we can actually resolve the galaxy down to parsec scales!”

With Webb, the science team can now see where stars formed and how they are distributed, in a similar way to how the Hubble Space Telescope is used to study local galaxies. Webb’s view provides a unique opportunity to study star formation and the inner workings of infant galaxies at such an unprecedented distance.

“Webb’s incredible sensitivity and angular resolution at near-infrared wavelengths, combined with gravitational lensing provided by the massive foreground galaxy cluster, enabled this discovery,” explained Larry Bradley of the Space Telescope Science Institute and PI of the Webb observing programme that captured these data.”No other telescope could have made this discovery.”

Galaxy cluster SPT-CL J0615−5746 in wide-field view

“The surprise and astonishment was incredible when we opened the Webb images for the first time,” added Adamo. “We saw a little chain of bright dots, mirrored from one side to the other — these cosmic gems are star clusters! Without Webb we would not have known we were looking at star clusters in such a young galaxy!”

In our Milky Way we see ancient globular clusters of stars, which are bound by gravity and have survived for billions of years. These are old relics of intense star formation in the early Universe, but it is not well understood where and when these clusters formed. The detection of massive young star clusters in the Cosmic Gems arc provides us with an excellent view of the early stages of a process that may go on to form globular clusters. The newly detected clusters in the arc are massive, dense and located in a very small region of their galaxy, but they also contribute the majority of the ultraviolet light coming from their host galaxy. The clusters are significantly denser than nearby star clusters. This discovery will help scientists to better understand how infant galaxies formed their stars and where globular clusters formed.

The team notes that this discovery connects a variety of scientific fields. “These results provide direct evidence that indicates proto-globular clusters formed in faint galaxies during the reionisation era, which contributes to our understanding of how these galaxies have succeeded in reionising the Universe,” explained Adamo. “This discovery also places important constraints on the formation of globular clusters and their initial properties. For instance, the high stellar densities found in the clusters provide us with the first indication of the processes taking place in their interiors, giving new insights into the possible formation of very massive stars and black hole seeds, which are both important for galaxy evolution.”

In the future, the team hopes to build a sample of galaxies for which similar resolutions can be achieved. “I am confident there are other systems like this waiting to be uncovered in the early Universe, enabling us to further our understanding of early galaxies,” said Eros Vanzella from the INAF – Astrophysics and Space Science Observatory of Bologna (OAS), Italy, one of the main contributors to the work.

In the meantime, the team is preparing for further observations and spectroscopy with Webb. “We plan to study this galaxy with Webb’s NIRSpec and MIRI instruments in Cycle 3,” added Bradley. “The NIRSpec observations will allow us to confirm the redshift of the galaxy and to study the ultraviolet emission of the star clusters, which will be used to study their physical properties in more detail. The MIRI observations will allow us to study the properties of ionised gas. The spectroscopic observations will also allow us to spatially map the star formation rate.”

These results have been published today in Nature. The data for this result were captured under Webb observing programme #4212 (PI: L. Bradley).

Main image: ESA

Why Does China Want to Destroy Elon Musk’s Starlink Satellite Network?

An article that was removed from its online version shortly after being published in China highlights Beijing’s growing concerns about SpaceX’s rapidly expanding satellite network, Starlink. So, why is China uneasy about Starlink?

The first institution to express concerns about the Starlink satellite network was the European Southern Observatory (ESO), which stated that the satellites would seriously interfere with wide-area observation telescopes. ESO’s 2020 announcement contradicted SpaceX owner Elon Musk’s claims that Starlink satellites would have “zero impact on astronomy.” Despite SpaceX requesting a meeting with ESO on this matter, no “astronomical update” has been made to the Starlink project over the past two years.

Recently, an article published in China has drawn attention to concerns regarding Starlink satellites. The article, written by Ren Yuanzhen from the Beijing Institute of Tracking and Telecommunications, was published in China’s Modern Defense Technology magazine. Interestingly, the article was removed from online platforms after being reported by The South China Morning Post. However, before its removal, the article titled “Starlink’s Development Status and Countermeasures” was translated into English by US diplomat David Cowhig.

The article suggests that China should use a combination of “soft and hard kill methods” to disable some of the Starlink satellites and destroy the satellite network’s operating system.

What is the Starlink Satellite Network?

Representing SpaceX’s satellite internet network, Starlink aims to provide low-cost internet access to remote areas away from main residential areas. It is the largest-scale project of satellite services offering internet from low Earth orbit, with 2,146 satellites launched so far. SpaceX’s goal is to launch 12,000 more satellites within the next five years, ultimately reaching 42,000 satellites.

Unlike existing satellite internet services, which are mostly in geostationary orbit at 35,000 kilometres above the Earth, SpaceX’s satellites are only 550 kilometres away, allowing for faster signal transmission.

Although satellite internet service is slower than traditional broadband, it can easily provide internet to areas without cable networks or antenna towers.

SpaceX Starlink launch in July 2023 (SpaceX/X)

Why is China Concerned About Starlink?

One of the concerns of Chinese scientists is that Starlink could significantly enhance data communication speeds for US military vehicles, including fighter jets.

While it is unknown what methods could be used to disable Starlink, the South China Morning Post article suggests that the approach should be “low-budget and highly effective.” It also notes that not just individual satellites but the entire network poses a problem.

At this point, China’s use of missiles to destroy thousands of small satellites seems quite far from the proposed approach. It’s important to note that China has had the capability to hit satellites in orbit for years. Wikileaks documents revealed that both the US and China used missiles to destroy their satellites to intimidate each other.

The failure of missiles suggests that China could target Starlink using lasers, microwave technology, or even cube satellites. SpaceX has not responded to Newsweek’s request for comment on the matter.

Roscosmos is Also Concerned

In addition to its commercial service, Starlink can also enhance the US military’s data communication capacity. The future deployment of tens of thousands of satellites to provide services to the US military has led to political tension between the US and its rivals.

Dmitry Rogozin, head of Russia’s national space agency Roscosmos, made a threatening statement earlier this month, claiming that Starlink was being used to aid Ukrainian military units. Musk, in a Twitter post, translated Rogozin’s message and noted that he was “being held accountable as an adult” for providing communication equipment to Ukraine.

Has Ukraine Benefited from Starlink?

Alongside the article suggesting measures against Starlink, another article was published on China Military Online, the news portal representing the Chinese army.

Written by Li Xiaoli, the article stated that Starlink’s “uncontrolled expansion” and SpaceX’s ambition to use Starlink for “military purposes” should be considered internationally.

According to Xiaoli, Starlink satellites are being used to help Ukraine in the war against Russia. It is known that over 10,000 Starlink terminals were delivered to Ukraine with the support of the US government. Besides strengthening communication via Starlink, it was suggested that technologies such as drones, big data, and facial recognition could be used to assist Ukraine.

The article argued that SpaceX would face increasing political and diplomatic risks due to Starlink’s high budget and questionable demand.
Xiaoli’s claims are not unfounded. According to The Times, Ukrainian military units communicated intelligence gathered from drones connected to Starlink terminals to artillery units.

Another report by Reuters indicated that the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense is using US-based Clearview AI facial recognition technology at checkpoints. This technology is also used to identify unmasked Russian soldiers, prevent information manipulation, and identify the deceased. It is unclear whether the AI technology is used in conjunction with Starlink.

“Strong Military Background”

According to Xiaoli, the US Air Force has been conducting tests with Starlink since 2018 to provide low-latency, high-bandwidth internet to its aircraft.

Space News said SpaceX received $150 million in funding from the US military in 2020 to develop military satellites. In return, Starlink satellites were granted access to transmit broadband data over military networks.

Xiaoli stated that when satellites work in conjunction, they can provide surveillance, navigation, and meteorological information for the US military, as well as enhance military power through remote intelligence gathering, communication networks, navigation, positioning, attack, and conflict, and space defense.

Reigniting debates, the article by Yuanzhen mentioned that Starlink’s 2017 patent application aimed to implement satellite communication and transmission, satellite imaging, remote surveillance, and other services. These applications are believed to support war intelligence and other military services.

“Global Network”

Another significant factor increasing China’s discomfort is that Starlink satellites will cover a wide area in low Earth orbit. According to Xiaoli, if Starlink reaches its target of 42,000 satellites, it will control 80% of the satellite capacity in low Earth orbit.

Last year, China stated at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space that its space station had to manoeuvre on July 1 and October 21 to avoid collision with Starlink satellites.

The Latest Breakthrough: Brazil

The most recent development in the Starlink project was the agreement signed between SpaceX and the Brazilian government. Under the agreement, Starlink will be used to provide internet access to remote areas in the Amazon rainforest.

Musk stated on Twitter that Starlink would allow 19,000 schools in the Amazon, which are isolated from the internet, to connect to the world.
Although connecting the Amazon to the internet seems beneficial, Brazil’s right-wing president opened the rainforest to development projects initiated in 2019. Over the past years, the rainforest has been exploited for agricultural land, logging, and mining operations.

By the end of 2021, the deforestation rate in the Amazon reached its highest level in the past 15 years, with a 22% increase annually. Satellite images obtained in January 2022 showed that approximately 430 square kilometres of forest area were destroyed in one year, five times the amount of the previous year.

Additionally, increasing lithium wars between China and the US could further damage Brazil’s natural cover. As competition for lithium production, a key material for electric vehicle batteries, intensifies, China controls many mines, especially in Africa. Ironically, China represents one of the largest markets for Tesla, which has a massive factory in Shanghai. Last year, Tesla announced plans to use lithium iron phosphate batteries for its next-generation electric vehicles.

This article is from 2022. To read the original Turkish article, click here.

Main image: SpaceX/X
Sources: The Independent/Newsweek/TheQuint

Why Did the Vikings Abandon Greenland?


The Vikings, called the “Northmen,” profoundly impacted medieval history with their raids into Europe from the ninth to the eleventh centuries. Despite extensive research due to their wide territorial spread, the reasons behind some of their migrations and relocations remain elusive. One of the unanswered questions is why the Vikings abandoned Greenland, but a new study has provided significant findings on this matter.

The Vikings, depicted as an independent community engaged in farming and seafaring with the capability to launch overseas expeditions, conducted hit-and-run raids on many European cities and towns, acquiring loot.

Particularly in the late tenth century, the Vikings successfully and sustainably settled in southern Greenland. However, by the fifteenth century, they had abandoned these lands. Previous research attributed this abandonment to the onset of the Little Ice Age, which halted agricultural activities and brought extreme cold to the North Atlantic. However, a new study published in Science has revealed that the situation was not as precise as previously thought.

During the mid-to-late Middle Ages, the Vikings were highly active in the western seas. In 795, they invaded Ireland and established kingdoms in Dublin, Limerick, and Waterford. By the 900s, they had settled in Iceland and, from there, moved to Greenland and North America. The kingdom they established in Greenland in 985 heralded a long settlement lasting six centuries. Their agricultural activities, livestock farming, seafaring, and walrus ivory trade were primary reasons for keeping the Vikings in Greenland.

France did not surrender despite facing Viking attacks, and the British Isles defended themselves. The Vikings were assimilated into Slavic communities in Russia, and after their defeat in the Battle of Clontarf in 1014, their influence began to wane.

By the fifteenth century, the Vikings had to abandon the Greenland lands they had inhabited for many years. According to researchers, the cold brought adverse living conditions that nearly halted agricultural activities, prompting the Vikings to leave southern Greenland in search of new lands.

Three Years to Gather Evidence

According to research conducted by the University of Massachusetts Amherst and noted by distinguished geosciences professor Raymond Bradley, “Before this study, there was no data on Viking settlements, which created a significant problem.” Previous studies used data from over 1,000 kilometres north and more than 2,000 meters higher elevation to reconstruct historical temperatures in Greenland. The new research, which examined how the climate near Scandinavian farms changed and the duration of these changes, produced surprising data.

Bradley and his colleagues went to Lake 578, adjacent to an old Scandinavian farm, and spent three years collecting sediment samples from the lake. They then analyzed these samples using two different methods: In the first method, a lipid known as BrGDGT can measure temperature. Isla Castañeda, a geosciences professor at UMass Amherst and one of the study’s authors, stated, “If you have a sufficiently complete record, you can directly link the changing structures of lipids to changing temperatures.” Another indicator derived from the waxy coating on plant leaves helps determine the rate of water loss due to evaporation in grasses and other plants feeding livestock, indicating dry conditions.

Boyang Zhao, who conducted the lake research for his doctoral thesis and is the lead author of the study, stated: “What we discovered is that while the temperature remained almost unchanged during the Scandinavian settlement in southern Greenland, the environmental conditions became increasingly drier.”

In the fifteenth century, Scandinavian farmers increasingly relied on stored feed to winter their animals. Even in relatively good weather years, the animals often remained weak. Under these conditions, the impact of drought was severe. Along with other economic and social pressures, prolonged drought made it unsustainable to maintain balance in Greenland, leading to the abandonment of the land.

This article is from 2022. To read the original Turkish article, click here.

Main image: Steinar Engeland/Unsplash
Source: Science

First of its kind detection made in striking new Webb image


For the first time, a phenomenon astronomers have long hoped to image directly has been captured by the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope’s Near-InfraRed Camera (NIRCam). In this stunning image of the Serpens Nebula, the discovery lies in the northern area of this young, nearby star-forming region.

The astronomers found an intriguing group of protostellar outflows, formed when jets of gas spewing from newborn stars collide with nearby gas and dust at high speeds. Typically these objects have a variety of orientations within one region. Here, however, they are all slanted in the same direction, to the same degree, like sleet pouring down during a storm.

The discovery of these aligned objects, made possible only by Webb’s exquisite spatial resolution and sensitivity at near-infrared wavelengths, is providing information about the fundamentals of how stars are born.

So just how does the alignment of the stellar jets relate to the rotation of the star? As an interstellar gas cloud collapses in on itself to form a star, it spins more rapidly. The only way for the gas to continue moving inward is for some of the spin (known as angular momentum) to be removed. A disc of material forms around the young star to transport material down, like a whirlpool around a drain. The swirling magnetic fields in the inner disc launch some of the material into twin jets that shoot outward in opposite directions, perpendicular to the disc of material.

In the Webb image, these jets are identified by bright red clumpy streaks, which are shockwaves caused when the jet hits the surrounding gas and dust. Here, the red colour indicates the presence of molecular hydrogen and carbon monoxide. Webb can image these extremely young stars and their outflows, which were previously obstructed at optical wavelengths.

Astronomers say there are a few forces that potentially can shift the direction of the outflows during this period of a young star’s life. One way is when binary stars spin around each other and wobble in orientation, twisting the direction of the outflows over time.

Serpens Nebula North

Stars of the Serpens Nebula

The Serpens Nebula is only one or two million years old, which is very young in cosmic terms. It’s also home to a particularly dense cluster of newly forming stars (around 100 000 years old) at the centre of this image, some of which will eventually grow to the mass of our Sun.

Serpens is a reflection nebula, which means it’s a cloud of gas and dust that does not create its own light but instead shines by reflecting the light from stars close to or within the nebula.

So, throughout the region in this image, filaments and wisps of different hues represent reflected starlight from still-forming protostars within the cloud. In some areas there is dust in front of that reflection, which appears here in an orange, diffuse shade.

This region has been home to other coincidental discoveries, including the flapping ‘Bat Shadow’, which earned its name when 2020 data from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Space Telescope revealed it to flap, or shift. This feature is visible at the centre of the Webb image.

Serpens Nebula centre crop

Future studies

The stunning image and the serendipitous discovery of the aligned objects are actually just the first step in this scientific programme. The team will now use Webb’s NIRSpec (Near-InfraRed Spectrograph) to investigate the chemical make-up of the cloud.

Astronomers are interested in determining how volatile chemicals survive star and planet formation. Volatiles are compounds that sublimate, or transition from a solid directly to a gas, at a relatively low temperature — including water and carbon monoxide. They’ll then compare their findings to the amounts found in protoplanetary discs of similar-type stars.

These observations were made as part of the Webb General Observer programme 1611 (PI: K. Pontoppidan). The team’s initial results have been published in the Astrophysical Journal.

More information
Webb is the largest, most powerful telescope ever launched into space. Under an international collaboration agreement, ESA provided the telescope’s launch service, using the Ariane 5 launch vehicle. Working with partners, ESA was responsible for the development and qualification of Ariane 5 adaptations for the Webb mission and for the procurement of the launch service by Arianespace. ESA also provided the workhorse spectrograph NIRSpec and 50% of the mid-infrared instrument MIRI, which was designed and built by a consortium of nationally funded European Institutes (The MIRI European Consortium) in partnership with JPL and the University of Arizona.

Webb is an international partnership between NASA, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, K. Pontoppidan (NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory), J. Green (Space Telescope Science Institute)