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Eighth planet found orbiting distant star

An eighth planet has been discovered orbiting a star 2,545 light-years from Earth, NASA announced Thursday.

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The star, called Kepler-90, is located in the Draco constellation. It is the first known star to have as many planets orbiting it as our solar system does, NASA said.

NASA scientists had known about seven planets orbiting Kepler-90. The eighth planet -- dubbed Kepler-90i -- is a hot, rocky planet that orbits its star once every 14.4 days, NASA said. By contrast, in our solar system, Mercury, the closest planet to the sun, has an orbit of 88 days.

Kepler-90i was found using machine learning from Google Artificial Intelligence. In this case, computers learned to identify planets by finding in Kepler data instances where the telescope recorded signals from planets beyond our solar system, known as exoplanets, NASA said. 

Christopher Shallue, senior software engineer at Google AI in California, told CNN that, “Machine learning really shines in situations where there is so much data that humans can't search it for themselves.”

Max Born’s identity: Google honors Nobel Prize-winning physicist who escaped Nazis

In honor of what would have been German physicist Max Born’s 135th birthday, the Google Doodle team put together a colorful illustration for the search engine’s home page.

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Born is remembered for his major contributions to quantum mechanics, a field of study that has led to the invention of computers, lasers, medical imaging devices and more.

Here are six things to know about Born and his groundbreaking work in quantum mechanics:

He was born in Breslau, Germany — now Wrocław, Poland.

According to Biography.com, Born was born into a family of “upper-class Jewish academics” on Dec. 11, 1882. His father was an anatomy and embryology professor and his mother, who died when Born was only four years old, came from a family of local industrialists.

He made his local university a renowned home for remarkable physicists.

Born was a professor of theoretical physics at the University of Göttingen, for 12 years. Several “soon-to-be-well-known” scientists joined the institution, including Werner Heisenberg, Enrico Fermi, J. Robert Oppenheimer and Maria Goeppert-Mayer.

He was friends with Albert Einstein.

Einstein and Born became friends while studying the theory of relativity. Born was a professor at his hometown university when he first met Einstein, according to Biography.com.

The two famously approached science in very different ways.

“Born, in holding that the basis of the material world was the purely random behaviour of the constituent particles of atoms, shared the majority viewpoint among quantum scientists; yet Einstein persisted in thinking that every event must have its cause, and searched constantly for a deeper explanation which might bring order into the seemingly chaotic sub- atomic world,” German theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg wrote for a 1971 book on the two scientists’ friendship, “The Born Einstein Letters.”

In spite of their scientific differences, the two carried a close friendship for more than 40 years and often wrote to each other. Their correspondence was published in the 1971 book.

Born also worked with future Nobel prize winner Otto Stern in Frankfurt, Germany, after World War I.

Born was forced to emigrate to England when Hitler rose to power in Germany.

In 2013, Born’s son, Gustav Born, told BBC.com that in early 1933, Einstein told his father to “leave immediately” while they were still able to travel.

When Hitler took control of Germany, Born and his fellow Jewish scientist colleagues were not allowed to work at the local university and eventually packed their bags for England.

In 2011, Cambridge University unveiled a 1935 letter from Hitler himself expelling Born, the “father of quantum mechanics” from his post at Göttingen University.

Born had a to give up running the institute and his wife was heartbroken.

"They hated to be uprooted in this crude and dangerous way,” Gustav told BBC.com. "My parents were pretty sure this was a one-way journey."

In 1933, when Jewish academics such as Born were being threatened under Nazi Germany, Einstein gave a speech in support of the Academic Assistance Council, which aimed to rescue Jewish and politically vulnerable academics during Hitler’s rise to power in Germany. Watch:

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1954 for the Born Rule.

Born earned the prize for his work in the field of quantum mechanics, specifically for the Born Rule, which Google described as “a quantum theory that uses mathematical probability to predict the location of wave particles in a quantum system.”

“In quantum mechanics, particles don’t have classical properties like ‘position’ or ‘momentum’; rather, there is a wave function that assigns a (complex) number, called the ‘amplitude,’ to each possible measurement outcome,” Caltech physicist Sean Carroll wrote in his blog. “The Born Rule is then very simple: it says that the probability of obtaining any possible measurement outcome is equal to the square of the corresponding amplitude.” 

Here’s the Born Rule equation: Probability(x) = |amplitude(x)|^2

Born’s theory now serves as the basis for almost all quantum physics predictions.

He died on Jan. 5, 1970.

Born died at age 87 at the Goettingen University Medical Clinic. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, his “death was caused by a heart ailment complicated by aerterial (sic) thrombosis.”

Haunting video of starving polar bear goes viral, breaks hearts

heartbreaking video of a skeletal polar bear scavenging for food in a desolate landscape is going viral online. The clip of the bear, which was released by the National Geographic channel, is gut-wrenching.

>> See the clip here (WARNING: Viewer discretion advised.)

Photographer Paul Nicklen, who has been with National Geographic for 17 years, says recording the video was even more heartbreaking. He’s spent his life filming bears and estimates that he’s come across about 3,000 of them, but the animal in his latest video was unlike the rest. In an article about the clip, Nicklen recalled, “We stood there crying — filming with tears rolling down our cheeks.”

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Nicklen says he’s often asked why he didn’t do something, but he explains, “Of course, that crossed my mind. But it’s not like I walk around with a tranquilizer gun or 400 pounds of seal meat.” He added, “When scientists say bears are going extinct, I want people to realize what it looks like. Bears are going to starve to death. This is what a starving bear looks like.”

The internet has definitely felt the gut-punch of the video, which sparked an outcry. Actor Kumail Nanjiani offered one off-hand solution to the problem:

Unfortunately, animals seem to have a very bleak future in front of them. The No. 1 threat to the world’s 22,000 polar bears is climate change, according to a World Wildlife Foundation report. The bears spend the winter months on the ice, where they do a lot of laying around and a whole lot of eating seals; they fast during the summer. But as the winter months have become warmer, it takes longer for the ice to reappear each season, meaning that the animals have less time to eat, and they have to fast for a longer stretch of time. In short, no ice means no seals, which could soon mean no polar bears.

Buzzfeed News also uploaded a video of the tear-jerking scene that has made the rounds online.

Government agencies monitoring about climate change are also warning that we could possibly lose polar bears as early as 2050, per a Washington Post report.

Read more here.

Canola oil linked to dementia, study says

Memory loss and confusion are common symptoms of dementia. Now scientists are linking canola oil to the disease in a new report

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Researchers from Temple University recently conducted an experiment, published in Scientific Reports, to determine how the common cooking oil may have an effect on the brain.

To do so, they examined mice that were six months old, dividing them into two groups. One was fed a normal diet, while the other had “a diet supplemented with the equivalent of about two tablespoons of canola oil,” the authors explained. 

After observing the animals for 12 months, they weighed them. They found that the mice on the canola oil diet weighed significantly more than those on a regular diet. 

They then assessed their working memory, short-term memory and learning ability by administering maze tests. They discovered the mice that had consumed canola oil suffered damage to their working memory. The canola oil-treated mice had reduced levels of amyloid beta 1-40, a protein that serves a beneficial role in the brain. 

“As a result of decreased amyloid beta 1-40, animals on the canola oil diet further showed increased formation of amyloid plaques in the brain, with neurons engulfed in amyloid beta 1-42,” the authors said. “The damage was accompanied by a significant decrease in the number of contacts between neurons, indicative of extensive synapse injury. Synapses, the areas where neurons come into contact with one another, play a central role in memory formation and retrieval.”

Their findings suggest canola oil is not beneficial to the brain, especially when it is consumed over long periods of time. Researchers now hope to further their studies to find out exactly how much canola oil can produce changes in the brain and if it can be linked to Alzheimer’s disease. 

“Even though canola oil is a vegetable oil, we need to be careful before we say that it is healthy,” lead researcher Domenico Pratico said. “Based on the evidence from this study, canola oil should not be thought of as being equivalent to oils with proven health benefits.”

 

Watch: NJ policeman captures meteor on dashcam

A New Jersey policeman on patrol in the middle of the night was treated to a spectacular celestial treat as a meteor streaked across the sky, NPR reported.

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On Dec. 2 at 3:09 a.m., Sgt. Michael Virga was on patrol for the Township of Hamilton when his vehicle dashcam caught the path of a fireball that lit up the sky. The event was confirmed by the American Meteor Society, which received several reports along the East Coast of the United States, NPR reported.

“It was a pinpoint in the sky, then a bright lime green streak and then it disintegrated," Virga told NPR.

He thought at first the flashing light came from fireworks, but was startled enough to pull over and rewind his video. Virga saw that he had recorded a clear view of the event, a case of “being in the right place at the right time.” 

Eating healthy diet also good for environment, study finds

Eating healthy is not only beneficial to your body -- it benefits the environment, too, according to a recent report.

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Researchers from universities in the Netherlands recently conducted an experiment, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, to determine how dietary choices impact the environment.

To do so, they used Exiobase, an input-output database that represents the world’s economy. The platform allows users to track the environmental costs of growing a variety of foods and the machinery needed to produce and distribute it to supermarkets. The site is also able to adjusts its figures based on a different countries’ production efficiency.

Scientists gathered information on the average diets of citizens living in 39 countries as well as its nationally recommended diets. They then entered the data into Exiobase to examine how it would affect greenhouse gas emissions, land use and eutrofication, which is the addition of nutrients to water sources that can lead to toxicities and lack of oxygen in water.

After analyzing the results, they found that if people in 28 high-income nations, including the United States, Germany and Japan, followed the dietary recommendations set by its respective governments, greenhouse gases related to the production of the food would drop by 13 to 25 percent. 

Additionally, the amount of land needed to grow the food would decrease by 17 percent.

“The study shows that choosing to follow an NRD over the average national diet would have the biggest environmental savings in the United States, Australia, Brazil and Canada. Most of these savings are due to the reduction of meat in the diet. There are reductions also in most EU nations, with Greece, Ireland, and the Netherlands saving the most,” the authors wrote in a statement

As for lower-income nations, researchers discovered following a NRD over the average national diet would result in higher environmental impacts, because these areas rely on higher consumption of animal product to combat low levels of protein. 

But they say the overall benefits would still be positive. 

“Although I think we could do even better, the message is a positive one, overall, especially if middle- and high-income countries modify their diets to align with nationally recommended diets,” they wrote. “This will generally mean eating more plant products such as legumes and vegetables, and fewer animal products. If you know your diet isn't healthy, you have one more reason to change, for our environment too. It might just be possible to have your cake and eat it!”

Supermoon 2017: 12 must-see photos that lit up social media

Did you miss the supermoon that delighted skygazers Sunday night? Here’s the good news: Photographers around the world shared must-see snapshots of the phenomenon on social media.

>> Click here or scroll down to see the photos

>> MORE PHOTOS: Supermoon 2017 around the world

>> Sunday supermoon kicks off trilogy of spectacular lunar viewing

>> Supermoon 2017: How to see, photograph the majestic ‘Full Cold Moon’ this weekend

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You’ll also get a chance to see other supermoons on Jan. 1 and Jan. 31, 2018.

Photos: Supermoon delights skygazers around the world

A trilogy of supermoons began Dec. 3, 2017, with a full cold moon that could be viewed in person or online. The other supermoons will occur Jan. 1 and Jan. 31, 2018.

Sunday supermoon kicks off trilogy of spectacular lunar viewing

A trilogy of supermoons begins Sunday night with a full cold moon that can be viewed in person or online, Space.com reported.

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The other supermoons will occur on Jan. 1 and Jan. 31, 2018. In addition, there will be a lunar eclipse on Jan. 31 that will cause a “blue moon.”

Sunday’s spectacular lunar view can be seen online beginning at 9 p.m. ET by visiting the Space.com website or by going to Slooh, an online astronomy service.

A supermoon occurs when the full moon is at its perigee, which is the closest point of its orbit to the Earth, Space.com reported. The moon appears to be larger and brighter than a regular full moon and up to 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than when it is at its apogee, which is its furthest point from Earth, Space.com reported.

Australia powers up the world’s biggest battery

The world’s largest lithium battery was activated in Australia on Friday, fulfilling the pledge by Tesla CEO Elon Musk to build it in 100 days or provide it for free, CNN reported.

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The electric car company’s Powerpack battery system stores energy generated by a nearby wind farm in South Australia, and it is capable of providing electricity for as many as 30,000 homes, CNN reported.

“South Australia is now leading the world in dispatchable renewable energy,” the state's premier, Jay Weatherill, said in a statement Friday. “This is history in the making."

Tesla said it hopes the project “provides a model for future deployments around the world.”

Musk made his “100 days or it's free” vow on Twitter during an exchange with Australian billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, CNN reported. The promise began with the official contract was signed in September.

With the battery going online this week, Musk met his deadline. The battery was officially launched Friday, but Australian media reported that it started supplying power to the electricity grid Thursday during peak demand hours.

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