It Came From Central Asia

How it got here or why it’s suddenly all over the news this week, well, your guess is as good as mine. But apparently, whatever you do, if you see one, don’t touch it and run for your lives!

Giant Weed Can Cause Blisters, Even Blindness

Call it the import that nobody wants.

Experts are urging residents of several states to beware of the “giant hogweed,” a tall plant native to Central Asia with umbrella-size flowers containing toxic sap that can cause burns, blisters and, in some cases, even blindness.

“Avoid it at all cost,” Jodi Holt, a professor of plant physiology at University of California, Riverside, told ABC News.

“The sap causes something called phytophotodermatitis when it touches humans,” causing scars and potentially blindness if it comes into contact with the eyes, Holt said. Some cases of blindness occurred after children used the hollow stalks as telescopes.

Heracleum Mantegazzianum, as hogweed is botanically known, is already a concern in the Northeast and spreading fast. Patches of giant hogweed have also been sighted in the Pacific Northwest.

See also:
Summer Plant from Hell: Giant Hogweed Can Burn, Scar and Blind You
Look out for Giant Hogweed
Giant worries over hogweed
Avoid Giant Hogweed: Noxious plant can cause blindness
Blistering, blinding weed creeps toward a city near you
Beware giant hogweed and its burning, blinding sap
Hogweed poses serious threat to New York citizens
Giant Hogweed Invades NY! This Weed Can Burn You, But Probably Won’t Eat You
What’s going on here? DEC to address hogweed problem in Springwater
Giant hogweed gone wild along Thames
Giant hogweed: 8 facts you must know about the toxic plant

I must confess, up until this week’s out of nowhere media blitz, despite years of extensive Boy Scout training, I’d never even heard of this marauding botanical menace.

/except as an early Genesis song

E.T. No Phone Home

Now space aliens can call Earth all they want, no one’s listening anymore.

SETI Shutters Search For Alien Life

Diminished funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the state of California has shut down the SETI Institute’s search for extraterrestrial life.

The institute has taken its Allen Telescope Array (ATA) offline while it seeks other sources of funding, it said in a letter to donors last week. In operation since 2007, the 42-radio antenna array–housed at the University of California Berkeley Hat Creek Radio Observatory–scans space for signs of extraterrestrial life.

See also:
SETI Institute suspends search for alien signals
SETI Institute to shut down alien-seeking radio dishes
Search for extraterrestrial life faces setback with SETI telescope ‘hibernation’
SETI shelves search for intelligent life
SETI puts E.T. on hold
Budget Cuts Shutter SETI’s Search for Aliens
SETI hunt for alien life put on hold
Alien finding institute Seti runs out of cash to operate telescope
SETI Search Halted as Allen Telescope Array Lacks Funding
Budget Cuts Shutdown SETI’s Alien-Seeking Telescopes
SETI Institute to shut down alien-seeking radio dishes
SETI Institute
SETI Institute

SETI Institute has been in existence for over 25 years and, so far, haven’t found any evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence. California has enough of a gigantic budget shortfall without having to spend money on, arguably, frivolous programs like SETI. If private donors want to pay for it, fine, more power to them, just leave the taxpayers’ public teat out of the funding equation.

/let’s hope E.T. doesn’t now suddenly decide to phone home and then get pissed off at us when there’s no answer

Roundup At The Antimatter Corral

You know, I’m all for the advancement of physics research, but there’s a reason antimatter doesn’t exist in nature. It annihilates an equal amount of matter on contact and releases incredible amounts of energy.

Antimatter held for questioning

For physicists, a bit of antimatter is a precious gift indeed. By comparing matter to its counterpart, they can test fundamental symmetries that lie at the heart of the standard model of particle physics, and look for hints of new physics beyond. Yet few gifts are as tricky to wrap. Bring a particle of antimatter into contact with its matter counterpart and the two annihilate in a flash of energy.

Now a research collaboration at CERN, Europe’s particle-physics lab near Geneva, Switzerland, has managed, 38 times, to confine single antihydrogen atoms in a magnetic trap for more than 170 milliseconds. The group reported the result in Nature online on 17 November1. “We’re ecstatic. This is five years of hard work,” says Jeffrey Hangst, spokesman for the ALPHA collaboration at CERN.

An antihydrogen atom is made from a negatively charged antiproton and a positively charged positron, the antimatter counterpart of the electron. The objective — both for ALPHA and for a competing CERN experiment called ATRAP — is to compare the energy levels in antihydrogen with those of hydrogen, to confirm that antimatter particles experience the same electromagnetic forces as matter particles, a key premise of the standard model. “The goal is to study antihydrogen and you can’t do it without trapping it,” says Cliff Surko, an antimatter researcher at the University of California, San Diego. “This is really a big deal.”

See also:
Scientists briefly trap a form of antimatter
Upping the Anti: CERN Physicists Trap Antimatter Atoms for the First Time
Antihydrogen trapped at CERN
Snagging Antimatter Atoms
Antimatter created, captured for the first time
Gotcha!
Breakthrough! Scientists Create and Capture Antimatter
‘Antimatter’ captured by CERN scientists in dramatic physics breakthrough
Anti-matter is finally trapped for an instant
Antimatter Trapped For the First Time
Antimatter atom trapped for first time, say scientists
Antimatter atoms caught at last
Scientists Hold Antimatter Captive — For Milliseconds
ALPHA – Antihydrogen Laser PHysics Apparatus
ATRAP – Antihydrogen TRAP
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC)
CERN

So far, they’re only dealing with 38 atoms and let’s hope the scale of the research stays small. However, if they can trap and hold a tiny amount of antimatter, eventually the technology could be developed to trap and hold larger quantities and then we could be in trouble if the technology ever fell into the hands of bad actors.

The reaction of 1 kg of antimatter with 1 kg of matter would produce 1.8×1017 J (180 petajoules) of energy (by the mass-energy equivalence formula E = mc²), or the rough equivalent of 43 megatons of TNT. For comparison, Tsar Bomba, the largest nuclear weapon ever detonated, reacted an estimated yield of 50 megatons, which required the use of hundreds of kilograms of fissile material (Uranium/Plutonium).

/of course, there’s probably nothing to worry about, but still, they’re not playing with Tinkertoys here