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US: Russia Made ‘Very Troubling Development’ in Space

The Free Press WV

Her title is a long one: US Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance. And on Tuesday Yleem Poblete sounded an alarm, bringing before a UN conference “a matter related to outer space that is of great concern to my government and that relates to space security.“ Her comments initially centered around Russia and its history of moves in pursuit of “the development and deployment of anti-satellite weapons” before getting specific: She’s concerned about Russia’s launch of an inspector satellite that has acted “abnormally.“

  • An excerpt of her comments: In October “the Russian Ministry of Defense deployed a space object they claimed was a ‘space apparatus inspector.‘ But its behavior on-orbit was inconsistent with anything seen before from on-orbit inspection or space situational awareness capabilities. We are concerned with what appears to be very abnormal behavior ... We don’t know for certain what it is and there is no way to verify it. But Russian intentions with respect to this satellite are unclear and are obviously a very troubling development.“
  • Reuters reports a Russian delegate in attendance brushed off Poblete’s remarks, calling them “the same unfounded, slanderous accusations based on suspicions, on suppositions and so on.“
  • At Jalopnik, Jason Torchinsky writes that we not only don’t know much about the satellite, he couldn’t even “find a likely candidate” based on his review of October 2017 launches, though he outlines why the Kosmos-2523 may be the one. As far as what it’s up to, “has it ‘inspected’ non-Russian satellites? Is it a test of a satellite-killer system designed to cripple an enemy’s orbital assets? All we do really know is that Kosmos-2523 has made the US State Department sufficiently nervous to make the alarming statements they made.“
  • The Washington Times reports Poblete pushed the UN to hold out for a tougher version of the “Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space,“ a Chinese-Russian treaty that exists in draft form and aims to keep weapons systems out of space, though Poblete asserts the draft version is flawed in that it doesn’t allow for international inspectors.
  • A research analyst with the Royal United Services Institute flags the timing of it all, pointing out to the BBC that Poblete’s comments come on the heels of President Trump’s Space Force announcement. “The narrative coming from the US is, ‘space was really peaceful, now look at what the Russians and Chinese are doing’—ignoring the fact that the US has developed its own capabilities.“
  • In other US-Russia news, Reuters on Wednesday reported that the US will up its count of Marines stationed in Norway from 330 to 700, with the plan being to station some of them nearer to the Russia border. Norway says the decision relates to training needs. Russia called it a “clearly unfriendly” move.

Earliest Known Egyptian Mummy Is Found

The Free Press WV

He was probably in his 20s and died nearly 6,000 years ago in Egypt. Beyond that, not much is known about the mystery man—except that he has helped scientists rewrite the book on mummification. Chemical analysis reveals that whoever buried him also embalmed him, and that pushes back the start of the mummification practice about 1,500 years, reports Live Science. What’s more, the “recipe” used to preserve the man is similar to the one that was in use about 2,500 years later, when the likes of King Tut and other pharaohs were laid to rest, reports National Geographic. The basic recipe, per the BBC: a plant oil such as sesame oil; a balsam-type plant or root extract; a plant-based gum, or sugar; and tree resin, which helped ward off bacteria.

“Until now, we’ve not had a prehistoric mummy that has actually demonstrated—so perfectly through the chemistry—the origins of what would become the iconic mummification that we know all about,“ says archaeologist Stephen Buckley of the University of York. The mummy was discovered about a century ago and has been in the Egyptian Museum of Turin. It proved to be a perfect specimen to test because, crucially, no conservation efforts were ever used on it over the years. Live Science notes one interesting aspect of the dates involved: The man’s death predated writing, meaning the formula for embalming had likely been passed down verbally from generation to generation.

Scientists Link Devices’ Blue Light to Serious Eye Trouble

The Free Press WV

Staring at your smartphone, tablet, or computer screen for hours on end may not only be fueling your online addiction—it could be wreaking havoc on your eyesight. So says a new study out of the University of Toledo, published in the Scientific Reports journal, and it’s all because of the symbiotic relationship between a light-sensitive protein in our retinas and the blue light emitted from our digital devices. What happens when that blue light hits our eyes, per the chemists involved in the research: It triggers the protein, called retinal, to produce toxic molecules that kill off the eye’s non-regenerative photoreceptor cells. And once those cells are dead, “they’re dead for good,“ study co-author Kasun Ratnayake says, per CTV News. The retinal and blue light definitely need each other to cause their damage, too: Either one on its own wasn’t found to kill cells.

Over time, this process leads to age-related macular degeneration, which is the top cause of vision loss and can eventually lead to blindness. There is a Vitaman E molecule called alpha tocopherol that exists in our eyes and is able to fend off such cell deaths, but it apparently doesn’t wield the same fighting powers as we age or if our immune systems are compromised. As researchers explore how to combat the problem—eyedrops that slow down macular degeneration is one such therapy on the table—study co-author Ajith Karunarathne suggests that people not check their devices when they’re in the dark and to wear special glasses that can keep blue light from slamming into the retina.

Google Tracks Users Even When Location Is Disabled

The Free Press WV

They’re following you now. An investigation by the Associated Press has revealed that many of the tech giant’s services on the Android operating system and iPhone track a user’s location even when a privacy function is engaged.

Turning off Location History still allows Google to collect and store data, and only disengaging “Web and App Activity” tracking fully withholds users’ whereabouts.

Google maintains its services are aimed solely at improving users’ experiences, though lawmakers expressed frustration over what Senator Mark Warner said were “corporate practices that diverge wildly” from users’ expectations.

Learn More: The Verge

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