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Chemical that shouldnt be there spotted in Venus atmosphere

Enlarge / The spectral signature of phosphine superimposed on an image of Venus.ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)..



Enlarge / The spectral signature of phosphine superimposed on an image of Venus.ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), Greaves et al. & JCMT

Today, researchers are announcing that they've observed a chemical in the atmosphere of Venus that has no right to be there. The chemical, phosphine (a phosphorus atom hooked up to three hydrogens), would be unstable in the conditions found in Venus' atmosphere, and there's no obvious way for the planet's chemistry to create much of it.

That's leading to a lot of speculation about the equally unlikely prospect of life somehow surviving in Venus' upper atmosphere. But a lot about this work requires input from people not involved in the initial study, which today's publication is likely to prompt. While there are definitely reasons to think phosphine is present on Venus, its detection required some pretty involved computer analysis. And there are definitely some creative chemists who are going to want to rethink the possible chemistry of our closest neighbor.

What is phosphine?

Phosphorus is one row below nitrogen on the periodic table. And just as nitrogen can combine with three hydrogen atoms to form the familiar ammonia, phosphorus can bind with three hydrogens to form phosphine. Under Earth-like conditions, phosphine is a gas, but not a pleasant one: it's extremely toxic and has a tendency to spontaneously combust in the presence of oxygen. And that later feature is why we don't see much of it today; it's simply unstable in the presence of any oxygen.

We do make some of it for our own uses. And some microbes that live in oxygen-free environments also produce it, although we have neither identified the biochemical process that does so nor the enzymes involved. Still, any phosphine that manages to escape into the atmosphere quickly runs into oxygen and gets destroyed.

That's not to say it doesn't exist on other planets. Gas giants like Jupiter have it. But they also have an abundance of hydrogen in their atmosphere and no oxygen, allowing chemicals like phosphine, methane, and ammonia to survive in the atmosphere. And the intense heat and pressure closer to a gas giant's core provide conditions in which phosphine can form spontaneously.

So we have a clear divide between gas giants, with hydrogen-rich atmospheres where phosphine can form, and rocky planets, where the oxidizing environment should ensure it's destroyed. For that reason, people have suggested that phosphine might be a biosignature we can detect in the atmospheres of rocky planets: we know it's produced by life on Earth and is unlikely to be present on these planets unless it's constantly replaced. Which is how some researchers ended up pointing a telescope at Venus' atmosphere.

Looking for signs

Specifically, the researchers turned to the 15-meter James Clerk Maxwell Telescope telescope in Hawaii. The JCMT is able to image in the wavelengths around one millimeter, which is an interesting one for Venus' atmosphere. The hot lower atmosphere of Venus produces an abundance of radiation in this area of the spectrum. And phosphine absorbs at a specific wavelength in the area. So if phosphine is present in the upper atmosphere, its presence should create a gap at a specific location in the flood of radiation produced by Venus' lower atmosphere.

In principle, this is an extremely simple observation. In reality, however, it's a bit of a nightmare, just because levels are so low. Here on Earth, where we know phosphine is made, the steady-state level in the atmosphere is in the area of a part-per-trillion because it's destroyed so quickly. Venus is also moving relative to Earth, meaning the location of any signals need to be adjusted to account for Doppler shifting. Finally, any signal would also be complicated by what researchers call "ripples," or instances when parts of the spectrum underwent reflection somewhere between Venus and the telescope.

These required extensive computer processing of the telescope data. But seemingly to the scientists' surprise, this analysis appeared to show the presence of phosphine. (In their paper, the researchers write, "The aim was a benchmark for future developments, but unexpectedly, our initial observations suggested a detectable amount of Venusian PH3 was present.") So they had someone else repeat the analysis independently. The signal was still there. The researchers also confirmed that their approach was able to detect water with deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen, which we know is present in the atmosphere of Venus. They also ruled out the possibility that they'd misidentified a sulfur dioxide absorption line that's nearby.

With the obvious problems ruled out, they got hold of time on a second telescope. That second telescope was the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, or ALMA. It has a much better resolving power, allowing the researchers to treat Venus as more than a point source of light. This confirmed that the phosphine signal was still there and most intense at the midlatitudes while seemingly absent from the poles and equator. This means it's present at sites where there's more top-to-bottom atmospheric circulation.

The researchers ultimately concluded that phosphine is present, at levels in the area of 20 parts-per-billion.

How in the world did that get there?

Assuming that analysis holds up, the big question becomes how phosphine got there. The researchers estimated how quickly it would be destroyed by the conditions in the Venusian atmosphere, and they used that to calculate how much phosphine would need to be produced to maintain the 20 parts-per-billion levels. And then they went searching for some sort of chemical reaction that could produce that much.

And, well, there isn't a plethora of good options. Under the conditions that prevail in the atmosphere, both the phosphorous and hydrogen will typically be oxidized, and there's not much of either around. While solar radiation could potentially liberate some of the hydrogen that iRead More – Source

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Spain’s competition watchdog opens disciplinary case against Google



Spain’s competition watchdog, the ‘Comisión Nacional de los Mercados y la Competencia’ (CNMC) has opened a disciplinary case against Google for alleged anti-competitive practices affecting publishers and Spanish news agencies, it said in a statement on Tuesday.

CNMC said it was investigating whether Google had abused its dominant position in the Spanish market. The proceedings involve Google LLC, Google Ireland Ltd, Google Spain, SL., and the overall parent company Alphabet Inc.

The alleged practices also include distorting free competition and imposing unfair conditions on press publishers and Spanish news agencies, CNMC said.

The watchdog’s investigation was sparked by a complaint from the Spanish Reproduction Rights Centre (CEDRO).

CNMC will investigate the case over the next 18 months, during which both sides can present their arguments.

According to RTVE, Spain’s national broadcaster, Google will analyse the file and respond to the ‘doubts’ of the CNMC. They said that Google ‘works constructively with publishers in Spain and Europe’ and would ‘need time to analyse the details … as the nature of the claims is still not clear’.

It is not the first action by the Spanish competition regulator against Google, nor the first in which its dominant position in the media sector stands out. In 2021, CNMC already warned that this company and another technology giant, Amazon, monopolised 70% of internet advertising in Spain.

Other lawsuits in the Netherlands and the UK have previously accused the technology company of abusing its dominance in the digital advertising market to harm its competitors. France also fined Google in 2021 for not negotiating in good faith compensation for the media for using its news content.


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How does technology affect reading and writing?



Technology has dramatically changed the way we read and write in the 21st century. From e-books and online articles to social media and instant messaging, technology has made reading and writing more accessible and convenient. However, it has also brought about new challenges and concerns.

One of the biggest benefits of technology is the increased access to information. With just a few clicks, people can access an endless supply of books, articles, and other written materials from all over the world. This has made reading and writing more accessible for people who may not have had the opportunity to do so in the past. It has also allowed for greater collaboration, as people can now share their writing and receive feedback from a global audience.

Technology has also made writing and reading more interactive. Social media and blogs have made it possible for people to engage with written content in real-time, sharing their thoughts, opinions, and experiences with others. This has led to a more dynamic and engaged reading and writing community, with people able to communicate and connect with each other in new and meaningful ways.

However, there are also concerns about how technology is affecting our ability to read and write. One of the biggest concerns is the decline of attention span. With so much information available at our fingertips, it can be difficult to stay focused and absorb what we are reading. Many people find it difficult to concentrate on longer written works, and are instead drawn to shorter, more bite-sized pieces of content.

Additionally, technology has led to an increase in informal writing. The widespread use of text messaging and instant messaging has led to the widespread use of shorthand and abbreviations. This has created concerns about the impact it may have on people’s writing skills, as well as the way they communicate with others.

Another concern is the rise of “fake news.” With the ease of publishing content online, it has become increasingly difficult to differentiate between credible and unreliable sources. This has led to a decline in trust in the media, and has created a need for critical thinking and media literacy skills.

Despite these concerns, technology has also provided new opportunities for writing and reading. E-books and online platforms have made it easier for people to self-publish their work, giving them greater control over the distribution and promotion of their writing. This has created a more democratized publishing industry, and has made it possible for voices and perspectives that may have previously been excluded to be heard.

In conclusion, technology has had a profound impact on reading and writing. While there are certainly challenges and concerns, the increased access to information, the ability to connect and engage with others, and the opportunities for self-publishing have all made reading and writing more accessible and dynamic. As technology continues to evolve, it will be important to address the challenges it presents and embrace the opportunities it provides.

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How to measure human intelligence?



Measuring human intelligence is a complex task that has been attempted by many experts and researchers over the years. Intelligence is often defined as an individual’s ability to think, reason, and solve problems. However, this definition is not enough to capture all the aspects of intelligence. In this article, we will look at some of the ways that human intelligence can be measured and evaluated.

  1. Intelligence Quotient (IQ) Tests: IQ tests are the most commonly used method of measuring intelligence. They are designed to measure an individual’s ability to solve problems, think logically, and understand abstract concepts. The results of an IQ test are expressed as an IQ score, which is a number that represents a person’s intellectual abilities in comparison to the general population.
  2. Achievement Tests: Achievement tests are designed to evaluate an individual’s knowledge and skills in specific subjects such as mathematics, reading, or science. These tests can be a good indicator of a person’s intelligence in a particular subject area and are often used in schools and colleges to assess students’ abilities.
  3. Neuropsychological Tests: Neuropsychological tests are used to evaluate the functioning of the brain and nervous system. These tests can be used to diagnose neurological disorders, measure cognitive abilities, and determine the impact of injury or illness on a person’s cognitive abilities.
  4. Cognitive Ability Tests: Cognitive ability tests are designed to measure an individual’s mental abilities such as memory, reasoning, and problem-solving. These tests can be useful in determining a person’s potential for learning and development.
  5. Behavioral Assessment: Behavioral assessment involves evaluating an individual’s behavior, including their social skills, emotional regulation, and communication abilities. This type of assessment can be useful in identifying areas where an individual may need support or intervention.
  6. Performance-Based Tests: Performance-based tests are designed to measure an individual’s abilities in real-world tasks and activities. These tests can be useful in determining a person’s practical intelligence and can be used in a variety of settings, including schools, workplaces, and healthcare facilities.

It is important to note that no single method of measuring intelligence is perfect and each has its own strengths and limitations. Additionally, the results of intelligence tests can be influenced by many factors such as cultural background, education, and experience. As a result, it is important to use a variety of assessment methods to get a more comprehensive understanding of an individual’s intelligence.

In conclusion, measuring human intelligence is a complex task that involves evaluating a variety of cognitive, behavioral, and performance-based abilities. While intelligence tests can provide valuable information about a person’s intellectual abilities, it is important to use a variety of assessment methods to get a more comprehensive understanding of an individual’s intelligence. By using a combination of tests, experts and researchers can get a more complete picture of an individual’s intellectual abilities and potential for learning and development.

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