Salt Lake City, Sep 12 (AP/UNB) — A strange thing happened after Neil Armstrong and the Apollo 11 crew returned from the moon with lunar rocks: Many of the mementos given to every U.S. state vanished. Now, after years of sleuthing, a former NASA investigator is closing in on his goal of locating the whereabouts of all 50.
In recent weeks, two of the rocks that dropped off the radar after the 1969 mission were located in Louisiana and Utah, leaving only New York and Delaware with unaccounted-for souvenirs.
Attorney and moon rock hunter Joseph Gutheinz says it "blows his mind," that the rocks failed to be carefully chronicled and saved by some of the states that received them, but he is hopeful the last two can be located before the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission next summer.
"It's a tangible piece of history," he said. "Neil Armstrong's first mission ... was to reach down and grab some rocks and dust in case they needed to make an emergency takeoff."
President Richard Nixon's administration presented the tiny lunar samples to all 50 states and 135 countries, but few were officially recorded and most disappeared, Gutheinz said.
Each state got a tiny sample encased in acrylic and mounted on a wooden plaque, along with the state flag. Some were placed in museums, while others went on display in state capitols. But almost no state entered them into an archival record, and many lost track of them, he said.
When Gutheinz started leading the effort to find them in 2002, he estimates that 40 states had lost track of the rocks.
"I think part of it was, we honestly believed that going back to the moon was going to be a regular occurrence," Gutheinz said. But there were only five more journeys before the last manned moon landing, Apollo 17, in 1972.
Of the Apollo 11 rocks given to other countries, about 70 percent remain unaccounted for, he said.
The U.S. government also sent out a second set of goodwill moon rocks to the states and other nations after the Apollo 17 mission, and many of those are missing too, he said.
NASA didn't track their whereabouts after giving them to the Nixon administration for distribution, said chief historian Bill Barry, but added the space agency would be happy to see them located.
Gutheinz began his career as an investigator for NASA, where he found illicit sellers asking millions for rocks on the black market. Authentic moon rocks are considered national treasures and can't legally be sold in the U.S., he said.
He became aware while at NASA that the gifts to the states were missing, but only began his hunt after leaving the agency.
Now a lawyer in the Houston area, he's also a college instructor who's enlisted the help of his students. The record their findings of the whereabouts of the discovered moon gems in a database.
Many of the Apollo 11 rocks have turned up in some unexpected places: with ex-governors in West Virginia and Colorado, in a military-artifact storage building in Minnesota; and with a former crab boat captain from TV's "Deadliest Catch" in Alaska.
In New York, officials that oversee the state museum have no record of that state's Apollo 11 rock. In Delaware, the sample was stolen from its state museum on Sept. 22, 1977. Police were contacted, but it was never found.
The U.S. Virgin Islands territory, meanwhile, can't confirm that they ever received a goodwill rock, though the University of the Virgin Islands later received Apollo 11 rocks for scientific research, said chief conservator Julio Encarnacion III.
In other states, though Gutheinz has recently hit paydirt. The Advocate newspaper in Baton Rouge located Louisiana's Apollo 11 moon rock in early August after a call from Gutheinz.
In Utah, the division of state history had no record of the sample, but The Associated Press confirmed it was in storage at Salt Lake City's Clark Planetarium.
Officials there may bring it out as part of celebrations recognizing the Apollo 11 anniversary next year, something Gutheinz hopes to see everywhere.
"The people of the world deserve this," he said. "They deserve to see something that our astronauts accomplished and be a part it."
San Francisco, Sep 9 (AP/UNB) — Engineers set to sea Saturday to deploy a trash collection device to corral plastic litter floating between California and Hawaii in an attempt to clean up the world's largest garbage patch in the heart of the Pacific Ocean.
The 2,000-foot (600-meter) long floating boom was being towed from San Francisco to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — an island of trash twice the size of Texas.
The system was created by The Ocean Cleanup, an organization founded by Boyan Slat, a 24-year-old innovator from the Netherlands who first became passionate about cleaning the oceans when he went scuba diving at age 16 in the Mediterranean Sea and saw more plastic bags than fish.
"The plastic is really persistent and it doesn't go away by itself and the time to act is now," Slat said, adding that researchers with his organization found plastic going back to the 1960s and 1970s bobbing in the patch.
The buoyant, U-shaped barrier made of plastic and with a tapered 10-foot (3-meter) deep screen, is intended to act like a coastline, trapping some of the 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic that scientists estimate are swirling in that gyre but allowing marine life to safely swim beneath it.
Fitted with solar power lights, cameras, sensors and satellite antennas, the cleanup system will communicate its position at all times, allowing a support vessel to fish out the collected plastic every few months and transport it to dry land where it will be recycled, said Slat.
Shipping containers filled with the fishing nets, plastic bottles, laundry baskets and other plastic refuse scooped up by the system being deployed Saturday are expected to be back on land within a year, he said.
Slat said he and his team will pay close attention to whether the system works efficiently and withstands harsh ocean conditions, including huge waves. He said he's most looking forward to a ship loaded with plastic coming back to port.
"We still have to prove the technology... which will then allow us to scale up a fleet of systems," he said.
The Ocean Cleanup, which has raised $35 million in donations to fund the project, including from Salesforce.com chief executive Marc Benioff and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, will deploy 60 free-floating barriers in the Pacific Ocean by 2020.
"One of our goals is to remove 50 percent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in five years," Slat said.
The free-floating barriers are made to withstand harsh weather conditions and constant wear and tear. They will stay in the water for two decades and in that time collect 90 percent of the trash in the patch, he added.
George Leonard, chief scientist of the Ocean Conservancy, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group, said he's skeptical Slat can achieve that goal because even if plastic trash can be taken out of the ocean, a lot more is pouring in each year.
"We at the Ocean Conservancy are highly skeptical but we hope it works," he said. "The ocean needs all the help it can get."
Leonard said 9 million tons (8 million metric tons) of plastic waste enter the ocean annually and that a solution must include a multi-pronged approach, including stopping plastic from reaching the ocean and more education so people reduce consumption of single use plastic containers and bottles.
"If you don't stop plastics from flowing into the ocean, it will be a Sisyphean task," Leonard said, citing the Greek myth of a task never completed. He added that on September 15 about 1 million volunteers around the world will collect trash from beaches and waterways as part of the Ocean Conservancy's annual International Coastal Cleanup. Volunteers last year collected about 10,000 tons of plastics worldwide over two hours, he said.
Leonard also raised concerns that marine and wildlife could be entangled by the net that will hang below the surface. He said he hopes Slat's group is transparent with its data and shares information with the public about what happens with the first deployment.
"He has set a very large and lofty goal and we certainly hope it works but we really are not going to know until it is deployed," Leonard said. "We have to wait and see."
The system will act as a "big boat that stands still in the water" and will have a screen and not a net so that there is nothing for marine life to get entangled with. As an extra precautionary measure, a boat carrying experienced marine biologists will be deployed to make sure the device is not harming wildlife, Slat said.
"I'm the first to acknowledge this has never done before and that it is important to collect plastic on land and close the taps on plastic entering into the ocean, but I also think humanity can do more than one thing at a time to tackle this problem," Slat said.
Dhaka, Sept 5 (UNB) - A team of researchers from Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST) has invented a low-cost technology to detect cancer through analysing blood samples.
The team, led by Prof Dr Yasmeen Haque of SUST Physics department, invented the technology by researching nonlinear optics under the Higher Education Quality Enhancement Project (HEQEP).
Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid disclosed the epoch-making invention at a press conference at the International Mother Language Institute in the city.
“It’s completely a new technology and a great success of Bangladesh in the field of education research. It’ll be used for the welfare of all,” he said.
The new technology will test the blood samples in a completely new method to predict the possibility of cancer in a very short time and at a very low cost, Nahid said.
The ‘Detection of Biomarker Using Nonlinear’ project was launched in March 2016 under HEQEP.
As part of the project, a nonlinear bio-optics research laboratory was established at the SUST Physics department.
The laboratory has started the work to measure the nonlinear index through sending powerful laser rays into the blood serum of cancer patients.
There is no need to use additional reagent in the new method as required in the biochemical system.
The minister said once the project is implemented successfully, it will be possible to detect the nonlinear characteristics of any blood sample apart from cancer patients.
Prof Dr Yasmeen Haque made a Power-Point presentation on the invention at the press conference.
University Grants Commission (UGC) Chairman Prof Abdul Mannan, SUST Vice-Chancellor Farid Uddin Ahmed, World Bank Chief Operations Officer Dr Mokhlesur Rahman and Project Director Dr Gauranga Chandra Mohanta were present.
Lockport, Jul 25 (AP/UNB) - The surveillance system that has kept watch on students entering Lockport schools for over a decade is getting a novel upgrade. Facial recognition technology soon will check each face against a database of expelled students, sex offenders and other possible troublemakers.
It could be the start of a trend as more schools fearful of shootings consider adopting the technology, which has been gaining ground on city streets and in some businesses and government agencies. Just last week, Seattle-based digital software company RealNetworks began offering a free version of its facial recognition system to schools nationwide.
Already, the Lockport City School District’s plan has opened a debate in this western New York community and far beyond about the system’s potential effectiveness, student privacy and civil rights.
“We shake our heads that we’re having to deal with and talk about these kinds of security issues,” said Robert LiPuma, technology director for the Lockport district, east of Niagara Falls, “but here we are.”
The idea behind the Lockport system is to enable security officers to quickly respond to the appearance of expelled students, disgruntled employees, sex offenders or certain weapons the system is programmed to detect. Only students seen as threats will be loaded into the database. Officials say it is the first school district in the country to adopt the Canadian-made system it is installing.
Administrators say it could thwart shootings like February’s attack in which expelled student Nikolas Cruz is charged with killing 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
“This would have identified (Cruz) as not being able to be in that building,” said Tony Olivo, a security consultant who recommended the system for Lockport. Cameras mounted throughout the building would have followed the banned student’s every move until he left.
Critics say the technology has been absent from schools for good reason.
In light of Lockport’s plans, the New York Civil Liberties Union asked the state Education Department to block the technology from any New York school, saying it would “have a chilling effect on school climate.” Education officials say they are reviewing the request.
“Lockport is sending the message that it views students as potential criminals who must have their faces scanned wherever they go,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said.
Jennifer Lynch, senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group, said any school considering facial recognition must consider who will have access to data, how such a system would be managed and whether students can opt out.
Others question the technology’s cost and effectiveness, given reports like one released in February by MIT and Stanford University that found some facial recognition programs don’t work as well on racial minorities and women.
Lockport parent Belinda Cooper would have preferred metal detectors in her 15-year-old daughter’s school.
“It would have been cheaper for the school district, and you can guarantee no guns or knives will be brought in,” she said.
District officials say the Aegis system they are installing, made by SN Technologies of Ontario, will not build or store a database of student and faculty face prints that could be shared with the government or marketers. Nor will the $1.4 million cost, funded through a state technology bond, siphon funding from staffing or supplies.
District officials acknowledge it won’t stop a determined attacker from coming through the door, nor will it warn against someone who is not a known threat.
But “there’s no system that’s going to solve every problem,” LiPuma said. “It’s another tool that we feel will give us an advantage to help make our buildings and our communities a little safer.”
Individual schools and districts, as well as the governors of Wyoming and one other state, have already expressed interest in RealNetworks’ customizable SAFR System, senior product director Michael Vance said.
At the University Child Development School in Seattle where it was piloted, rather than rely on office staff buzzing in late arrivals or visitors, the system gives parents who have registered their faces automatic access through a locked gate and tells the office who is coming. Schools can opt to register students’ faces and customize how to respond to people who have been flagged for alert.
“All of that resides with the school,” Vance said. “We don’t see it. We don’t have access to the pictures, the images, the video, anything like that. It’s stored in the same way that school attendance databases, grades, records, everything is kept.”
Nevertheless, citing a patchwork of regulations, Vance said the company would welcome the kind of government guidelines for facial recognition technology that Microsoft President Brad Smith called for in a blog post July 13.
In Lockport, as crews worked on wiring the system inside, 16-year-old student Teliyah Sumler expressed some reservations.
“I feel like it’s too personal,” she said. “Cameras all in my face. It’s too much.”
Khari Demos, 22, who has two siblings in Lockport High School, said he worries for their safety and views facial recognition as another piece of a security puzzle that includes locked doors and active shooter drills.
“It’ll actually identify who should and shouldn’t be in the school,” said Demos, who graduated from the school in 2013. “The system will never be 100 percent perfect but it’s a step in the right direction.”
New York, Jul 25 (AP/UNB) - A huge lake of salty water appears to be buried deep in Mars, raising the possibility of finding life on the red planet, scientists reported Wednesday.
The discovery, based on observations by a European spacecraft, generated excitement from experts. Water is essential to life as we know it, and scientists have long sought to prove that the liquid is present on Mars.
"If these researchers are right, this is the first time we've found evidence of a large water body on Mars," said Cassie Stuurman, a geophysicist at the University of Texas who found signs of an enormous Martian ice deposit in 2016.
Scott Hubbard, a professor of astronautics at Stanford University who served as NASA's first Mars program director in 2000, called it "tremendously exciting."
"Our mantra back then was 'follow the water.' That was the one phrase that captured everything," Hubbard said. "So this discovery, if it stands, is just thrilling because it's the culmination of that philosophy."
The study, published in the journal Science, does not determine how deep the reservoir actually is. This means that scientists can't specify whether it's an underground pool, an aquifer-like body, or just a layer of sludge.
To find the water, Italian researchers analyzed radar signals collected over three years by the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft. Their results suggest that a 12-mile-wide (20 kilometers) reservoir lies below ice about a mile (1.5 kilometers) thick in an area close to the planet's south pole.
They spent at least two years examining the data to make sure they'd detected water, not ice or another substance.
"I really have no other explanation," said astrophysicist Roberto Orosei of Italy's National Institute of Astrophysics in Bologna and lead author of the study.
Mars is very cold, but the water might have been kept from freezing by dissolved salts. It's the same as when you put salt on a road, said Kirsten Siebach, a planetary geologist at Rice University who wasn't part of the study.
"This water would be extremely cold, right at the point where it's about to freeze. And it would be salty. Those are not ideal conditions for life to form," Siebach said.
Still, she said, there are microbes on Earth that have been able to adapt to environments like that.
Orosei said, "It's tempting to think that this is the first candidate place where life could persist" on Mars.
He suspects Mars may contain other hidden bodies of water, waiting to be discovered.
Our planetary neighbor has been a popular target for exploration, with rovers on its surface and other probes examining the planet from orbit. In May, NASA launched another spacecraft, the InSight Mars lander, that will dig under the surface after it reaches a flat plain just north of the Martian equator in November.