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John Birks • Author at Mirror Daily

Toyota has just rolled out the Toyota Mirai electric car, a car that runs on hydrogen fuel cells and charges in 3 minutes.

Toyota Mirai is a sleek and affordable eco-friendly car that can run for 300 miles with a 3-minute charge and it also comes with three years of free gas.

Mirai means future in Japanese and the Toyota Mirai is going to be one of the first mass-market cars to run on electricity obtained from compressed hydrogen. This means that its exhaust fumes will be just water vapor. With the hydrogen fuel cells technology, the Toyota Mirai doesn’t need to be plugged in overnight, the user would just need to charge it for around three minutes.

Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Motors and electric-car pioneer, has criticized the tech-forward Toyota Mirai. Musk finds hydrogen a very unreliable source of energy for cars and even called hydrogen fuel cells extremely silly. He stated that hydrogen is too difficult to store, produce and convert to fuel and that this technology diverts attention from better sources of clean energy.

Musk continued:

If you’re going to pick an energy source mechanism, hydrogen is an incredibly dumb one to pick. The best-case hydrogen fuel cell doesn’t win against the current-case batteries. It doesn’t make sense, and that will become apparent in the next few years.

The Toyota Mirai will cost around $45,000 in the United States (which includes $13,000 in federal incentives). Tesla Model S costs $80,000 and drives for 265 miles. The Toyota Mirai will start selling to the Japanese public next month.

Toyota is not the only car manufacturer that has cars running on hydrogen fuel cells, the Hyundai Tucson is available in California and a new car from Honda is set to roll out in 2016.

Toyota is also planning to build more fueling station and it is going to start doing that in California, and that is why the Toyota Mirai is only going to be available here, at first. The state is also investing tens of millions of dollars to build more hydrogen refueling stations. It plans to open up 28 more and it’s already got 10.

Cars running on hydrogen fuel cells need an infrastructure for them to properly function in the American society.

Image Source: Forbes

At the Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Medical Center a baby was born fully encased in the amniotic sac, following a Caesarian section that delivered him prematurely. Being born with the amniotic sac intact is a medical rarity and this is why little Silas Philips has been making the rounds on the Internet.

Silas was born completely en caul, which means encased in the amniotic sac and because this is such a rarity, the doctor had to snap a photo of him with his phone.

There have been a few voices that have been saying that the doctor should have attended to the baby and helping him breathe instead of taking out the phone for a photo, but the doctors stated that the baby was still attached with the umbilical cord to the mother and the sac was intact, so he was still getting his oxygen and nutrients from his mother.

William Binder, neonatologist at the Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Medical Center told the press that it felt like a moment of awe and the people in the room caught their breath. After the initial shock the team of doctors rushed to aid the little one, as he was born three months premature.

Normally, when a baby gets ready to come into the world, the moment is signaled by the rupturing of the amniotic sac, or water breaking. Sometimes, the amniotic sac can get stuck around certain parts of the baby. For example, a part of the sac can get wrapped around the baby’s head and make it look as if the baby is wearing a helmet.

One in 80,000 babies are born inside the amniotic sac, or en caul inside the United States every year. The amniotic sac protects the baby inside the mother, by creating a perfect environment where they can develop and grow.

Usually with C-sections, the scalpel almost always pierces the amniotic sac. When Silas’ mother heard about the news that her baby was born in the amniotic sac, she was shocked and said that he was indeed special.

Little Silas Philips is doing fine and will be released from the hospital around his initial due date, which is in a month.

Image Source: Daily Mail

Siberian giant craters keep popping up and they’re leaving Russian scientists guessing as to what the real reason behind their existence is.

Scientists are guessing that Siberian giant craters are appearing due to gas emissions, but they cannot be completely certain about it.

Yamal is a Siberian Peninsula and it actually means the end of the world. Scientists from the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) believe that the peninsula is becoming more and more porous. In July of 2014 a large sinkhole measuring 260 feet appeared in Yamal and now researchers are saying that up to 30 more sinkholes could pop up unexpectedly.

Russian scientists have found nine more craters in the region since the discovery of the first one and one in particular is drawing attention. The B2 crater is surrounded by 20 water-filled smaller craters and deputy director of the RAS-affiliated Oil and Gas Research Institute, Vasily Bogoyavlensky, believed that they will find even more craters just like it.

He stated:

I would compare this with mushrooms: when you find one mushroom, be sure there are few more around. I suppose there could be 20 to 30 craters more.

Gas emissions are only part of the explanation as why these Siberian giant craters appeared. Some people in the vicinity of the crater have reported seeing a flash of light near the site of one of the craters, while others said that they felt tremors before the appearance of a crater. All these reports point at a more otherworldly explanation, but scientists believe the culprit behind the Siberian giant craters is methane.

It is suspected that methane gas emissions lead to the forming of the craters and the release of methane could be put on global warming. A thaw of the Siberian landscape could have make possible underground gas reserved to come to the surface.

Previous data seems to support the theory of methane gas, as researchers have noticed in the past that Yamal lakes presented the phenomenon called degassing, where gas was released and rose from the lakebed.

According to Bogoyavlensky, gas emissions are capable of causing serious damage to drilling rigs and to communities close to them. He highlighted the importance of further research into the matter and added that it was very important not to scare people, even though the issue is a very serious one.

Image Source: Industry Tap

Research scientists from the Netherlands-based Drents Museum had an 11th or 12th century Buddhist statue imaged and found that it had the mummy of a monk hidden inside. Scientists detected a human skeleton that was glowing through the silhouette of the statue, on the computed tomography scan performed at the Meander Medical Center in Amersfoort, the Netherlands.

The mummified body of the monk is folded into the same position, fitting the inside of the statue perfectly. Scientists also had samples taken with an endoscope, under the close supervision of the Buddhist art expert, Erik Brujin.

As far as the mummy is concerned, it is believed to belong to a Buddhist master, supposedly named Liuquan, who belonged to the Chinese Meditation School. The master is believed to have died around 1100 AD.

Thanks to the endoscopy, some other strange facts had been revealed, such as a material yet unidentified, which had been taken out from the thoracic and abdominal cavities of the mummy. Moreover another spectacular thing was discovered: it appears that inside the spaces meant to be occupied by organs, the research team found pieces of paper with ancient Chinese characters written on them.

The research team  is of the opinion that the mummy was due to “self-mummification.” This process is supposedly used in order to become “a living Buddha” and also in order to to achieve one of the highest levels of enlightenment.

The “oldest patient ever,” as doctor Reinoud Vermeijden along with radiologist Ben Heggelman like to call the mummy is repeatedly examined by these experts in their spare time. For instance bone fragments belonging to the mummy have also been extracted to be used for further DNA testing. The results will be published in a monograph that will focus on Master Liuquan alone at a later date.

The world famous statue, which contains the mummy, was taken to examinations from the Drent Museum in Assen, where it had been on display. Right now it is on display at the National Museum of Natural History in Budapest, and by May of 2015, it will be off to Luxembourg.

Monks wanting to practice self-mummification had to begin a 1,000-day diet of water, nuts and seeds, continued by a 1,000-day diet of pine bark and roots, along with a tea made from the sap of a Chinese lacquer tree, that has this toxic substance that’s usually used in order to lacquer the bowls and the plates used by monks when repelling maggots and bacteria. The monks would then be sealed inside a stone tomb and awaited self-indulged death.

Caramel colour, a common ingredient in colas and other dark soft drinks, has turned out to be carcinogenic, according to recent studies. 44 to 58 % of people over 6 years of age usually have at least one can of soda every day, even more, therefore exposing themselves to 4-methylimidazole or 4-MEI, which is a  human carcinogen that’s formed as a consequence of the manufacturing procedure of some kinds of caramel colour.

The researchers at the University Bloomberg School of Public Health published the study online in the notorious journal PLoS One.

“Soft drink consumers are being exposed to an avoidable and unnecessary cancer risk from an ingredient that is being added to these beverages simply for esthetic purposes,”

Prof. Keeve Nachman, senior author of this study and also director of the food production and public health program at the Centre for a Livable Future (CLF) of the University said.

A 2014 study of 110 samples of soda brands tried to look into the same matters, but it was not large enough so as to be capable of  recommending one brand instead of another or to draw conclusions regarding specific brands. However results indicated clearly that levels of 4-MEI could very well vary substantially among samples, even for samples representing the same type of beverage.

The samples used in the study mostly came from California and New York, regarding to which researchers noted that soft drinks in California tend to have lower levels of 4-MEI than the samples sold outside the state of California. This is because food and drink manufacturers are compelled by the California state law to post warning labels on any products that expose consumers to more than a specific amount of 4-MEI each day.

There’s currently no federal limit regarding 4-MEI in neither food nor beverages despite the fact that the US Food and Drug Administration has been petitioned to set limits for this potential carcinogen ingredient last year.

California has already taken an important step towards the 4-MEI regimentation by setting a threshold for prompting Proposition 65 labelling based on daily 4-MEI exposure. Moreover intervention by the FDA, such as establishing maximum levels for 4-MEI in beverages, may represent a valuable approach towards reducing cancer risk.

According to the British Defense Secretary, Michael Fallon, Russian President Vladimir Putin poses a “real and present danger” to countries like Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. He also said that NATO is preparing to repel any possible aggression.

Fallon admitted that the Russian leader could very well try to repeat the covert campaign he used in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, but this time against other former Soviet bloc countries such as Latvia, Lithuania or Estonia.  By this he means Putin’s sending irregular troops, or cyber attacks or even raising tensions with Russian minorities in nations that are seen as part of the country’s “near abroad.”

Fallon’s  comments came after the Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko, called for the UN peacekeepers to monitor a cease-fire in east Ukraine, a proposal pro-Russia rebels said would breach a peace deal.

“I’m worried about his pressure on the Baltics, the way he is testing NATO. NATO has to be ready for any kind of aggression from Russia whatever form it takes. NATO is getting ready,”

Fallon  said.

Moreover Fallon raised concerns regarding the increased Russian air activity above Britain as the of Defence announced the Royal Air Force had to escort 2 Russian long-range Bear bombers away from the south coast of England a day before. It’s the second time in many months that this happens.

The Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius is of the opinion that Russia actually poses a threat to the wider region, Moldova included. Moldova on Wednesday chose a pro-European as prime minister.

“If we fail to react properly to what’s happening in Ukraine there will be a big temptation [for Russia] to further instigate situations elsewhere and then we will face a bigger problem,”

said Linkevicius.

The Defence Secretary’s comments are at loggerheads with those told by the former MI6 Chief. On Monday he said that building up political and military pressure on Putin could determine change of Kremlin leadership which is likely to be for the worse.

Nevertheless chances are that the action taken by Western governments regarding the crisis in Ukraine is likely to provoke Putin, and thus lead to a deeper crisis in the area.

Mars One, a non-profit organisation based in the Netherlands has an encouraging mission: establishing a permanent human settlement on Mars. The organisation has selected 100 candidates out of the initial 202,586 applicants who are to get in the third selection round.

The list is made out of 50 men and 50 women who come from all around the world – with 39 coming from North and South America, 31 coming fromEurope, 16 from Asia, 7 are coming from Africa, and 7 are coming from Oceania.

The plan goes like this: these 100 selected folks that are susceptible to be Martian emigrants must take part in group challenges before the successful winners, which will be something between 24 and 40 people, will be announced later this year.

The remaining group will then have to undergo nearly 10 years of training while they will have enough time to rethink  and maintain the option to never be able to return once they leave Earth’s orbit. Moreover the candidates will have to prove their ability to live in difficult conditions, as well as work together under despite really harsh circumstances.

It is believed that at at least six groups of four will be trained in order to be ready for the trip to Mars. Also as a part of the mission, crews of four people will regularly be sent on a one-way trip to Mars every two years, starting in 2024.

In order to have everything ready for the new inhabitants, Mars One’s planed an unmanned mission due to launch in 2018. But still some exterior problems are likely to occur. For instance Mars One knows that it will need billions of dollars so as to conduct its Mars missions, along with a robotic rover mission that’s planned for launch in 2018.

“When you see what we do with this planet, what we do with each other, we still have wars, we are constantly doing the same mistakes again and when I heard two years ago that someone wants to build a new society on another planet I said I have to be a part of that,”

said Australian Gunnar Prehl, 41, who’s made it on the list. By and large the list of 100 includes both scientists or academics, as well as people who are simply looking for the ultimate adventure.

It goes without saying the the money issue is by far the biggest unknown right now. And apart from this, last year, an MIT study actually found that Mars One’s plan to send humans to Mars and also keep them alive on the way and once they get there, was an “overly optimistic” attempt, as far as technical grounds are concerned.

A new bionic leaf was designed by researchers at Harvard University and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and promises to convert solar energy into liquid fuel. The newly developed artificial leaf creates oxygen and hydrogen.

Afterwards a bacteria called Ralstonia eutropha, consumes the hydrogen and converts it into protons and electrons, which are integrated into molecules of carbon dioxide as part of the bacteria’s reproductive cycle.  Ralstonia eutropha has the ability to trigger a reaction between hydrogen and carbon dioxide in order to generate a biofuel known as isopropanol.

This new energy approach uses the bacteria to convert sunlight into fuel efficiently, thus creating a smart synthesis between artificial technology and biology.

“This is a proof of concept that you can have a way of harvesting solar energy and storing it in the form of a liquid fuel… we had a mission of wanting to interface some kinds of organisms with the harvesting of solar energy. It was a perfect match,”

said Pamela Silver from the Wyss Institute.

In other words the newly discovered bionic leaf imitates the process of photosynthesis. But the creation of this artificial leaf system was span over a decade long process. The catalysts used in the device are highly well-adapted and are also compatible with the conditions required for the bacterial growth.

Right now the artificial leaf has 1% efficiency rate regarding the creating of isopropanol as the efficiency rate is currently equal to the natural process in which photosynthesis turns sunlight into biomass. But the researchers are hoping they will reach 5% efficiency with the bionic leaf in a short time.

By and large, homes and businesses are likely to be powered by solar cells in the future, and vehicles will be powered by liquid fuel generated by bionic leafs. The research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) this week, talks about how the limitations of the artificial leaf were eventually overcome.

Actually Daniel Nocera initially pioneered an artificial leaf back in 2011, but the device was not ready for commercial production because of the lack of systems in place meant to collect, store and use the hydrogen gases produced by the leaf.

According to a new study, known as the Unprecedented 21st-Century Drought Risk in the American Southwest and Central Plains, because of climate change, Southwestern USA is soon believed to be facing the worst drought in 1,000 years. This is NASA’s most thorough research regarding draught prediction.

The American southwest region, along with other parts of this world are expected to face unprecedented megadroughts, because of the rising carbon emissions and global warming. Ben Cook, a NASA climate scientist explains the seriousness of the situation we’ll soon have to put up with:

“Recent droughts, like the ongoing drought in California and the southwest and historical droughts like the Dust Bowl in the 1930s, these are naturally occurring droughts that typically last several years or sometimes almost a decade. In our projections with climate change, what we’re seeing is that these droughts could last 20, 30, or even 40 years, even exceeding the duration of the long-term, intense megadroughts that characterised the really arid time period known as Medieval climate anomaly.”

The study was published last Thursday in the Science Advances journal, and is based on premises coming from several climate models, one sponsored by NASA being among them. The research undoubtedly found a continuous increase in human-produced greenhouse gas emissions, which will definitely drive up the risk of severe droughts.

So in other words a megadrought is basically a drought that lasts more than three decades. We are currently facing a 12% risk of having a mega-drought. However In case greenhouse gas emissions stop increasing in the mid-21st century, Cook and his colleagues projected the likelihood of a megadrought to over 60%. Also in case greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase along current trajectories throughout the 21st century, there is an 80% probability of a decades-long mega-drought in the Southwest and Central Plains between 2050 and 2099.

In order to reach this result, researchers applied 17 climate models in order to analyse the future impact of rising temperatures on regions starting from Mexico and going through the United States and Canada.

Moreover they projected a continued rise in emissions of the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, and also looked at a scenario in which they took some action so as to cut back on greenhouse gases that resulted in lower emissions. However both approaches are extremely pessimistic.

Here’s the video that explains it all:

The absolute astronomy highlight of the week is actually seeing the formation of a multiple-star system unveiling before our eyes. This definitely gave the science world a a revolutionary understanding regarding what happens before a star is born.

Capturing this exact phase of formation is particularly important because it is the one that determines the number of stars in that system. However it is usually hard to catch a glimpse of because of dust clouds and dense gas.

Researchers studied a dense core of gas, called Barnard 5, which is located in a young star-forming region of the constellation Perseus, 800 light-years from Earth.

The article was published in the latest issue of the Nature journal and it was led by a team of astronomers from England and United States. The research team was conducted by Jaime Pineda from the Institute for Astronomy at ETH Zurich. Observing the exact phase of the birth of a multiple star system offers some vital clues, like the frequency of planets, the formation of stars and planets and, most importantly, it offers valuable insight regarding habitability.

“Seeing such a multiple-star system in its early stages of formation has been a longstanding challenge, but the combination of the Very Large Array (VLA) and the Green Bank Telescope (GBT) has given us the first look at such a young system,”

said Jaime Pineda.

The authors were involved in mapping radio emissions coming from methane molecules in the proximity of a young proto-star when they detected some fragmenting filaments of gas that were condensing in order to form three new stars. But the universe takes its time, that’s foe sure, as these condensations are expected to gravitationally collapse and form stars as a consequence sometime during the next 40,000 years, which is a rather short period of time considering the astronomical standards.

Researchers are of the opinion that these stars in the system will eventually range between one-tenth and one-third the mass of our Sun. However the main question that rose came as a consequence regarded why our system has only with one star, while the nearest system, Alpha Centauri, has three.

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