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Is Plant ‘Intelligence’ Just a Human Fantasy? – Gizmodo Australia

Although plants make up over 80% of the biomass on Earth, for centuries they have been thought of as inanimate and passive things. Researchers even coined the term “plant blindness” to refer to a cognitive bias that literally makes our brains zone out plants …

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Researchers use advanced metrics from information theory to describe the behavior of ayu fish – News-Medical.net

Researchers at the University of Tsukuba used advanced metrics from information theory to describe the collective behavior of small schools of ayu fish.

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Researchers at the University of Tsukuba used advanced metrics from information theory to describe the collective behavior of small schools of ayu fish.
They found that the overall dynamics were noticeably different for groups of three or more, compared with smaller groups, even over very short timescales.
This work may help shed light on fundamental problems in complexity theory and assist in the development of cooperative biomimetic swarming robots.
Some of the most difficult questions in science today deal with the same fundamental question: How can complex dynamics arise from simple, local interactions?
For example, schools of fish and flocks of birds can move and turn in near perfect synchrony without any top-down control from a leader.
To try to make progress on this question, integrated information theory (IIT) has been used to provide a mathematical framework for measuring how information passes back and forth from individuals to the group as a whole.
A team including Professor Takayuki Niizato at the University of Tsukuba studied the swimming of Ayu, which are small fish related to smelts. Ayu were randomly chosen and placed in a tank in groups of 2, 3, 4, or 5 fish.
Explains Professor Niizato, “The trajectory of each fish was tracked, and a computer calculated three binary parameters for every fish at each time step.”
“These parameters were as follows: if the subject fish was close to another fish, if the fish was turning, and if another fish was in its field of view.”
“We found that, over times ranging from 40 milliseconds to one second, a grouping of three fish acted very differently than a pair.”
In this study, “integrated information” quantified the extent to which the cause and effect in a system can be explained by the repertoires of its components.
And “integrated conceptual information” was used as an expression of the fish school’s group collective action, roughly how much the behavior of individual members is dependent on the behavior of the group.
The aim of IIT is to try to shift the paradigm from ‘what a system does’ to ‘what a system is.’ The former tries to analyze the system on the basis of observable behavior, while the latter tries to determine its intrinsic causal structure,”
Takayuki Niizato, Professor, University of Tsukuba
This work may help make inroads in some truly difficult questions surrounding group dynamics that emerge naturally when simple components join to form a complex group.
This may also aid in the development of “swarming” robots that, like schools of fish or ant colonies, make use of this principle to achieve complicated goals.
University of Tsukuba
Niizato, T, et al. (2020) Four-Types of IIT-Induced Group Integrity of Plecoglossus altivelis. Entropy. doi.org/10.3390/e22070726.

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Trio of Mars missions in the starting blocks – Bangkok Post

PARI: “We have lift-off, we have lift-off!”

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PARI: “We have lift-off, we have lift-off!”
The summer race to land a space probe on Mars is off to a hot start.
Three countries — The Hope Probe (United Arab Emirates), Tianwen-1 (China) and Mars 2020 (United States) — have all taken their positions, hoping to take advantage of the period of time when the Earth and Mars are nearest: a mere 55 million kilometres apart.
The neighbouring planets only come this close once every 26 months — a narrow “launch window” based on their relative positions in space.
Space agencies from all three nations plan to send rovers to the Red Planet to look for additional signs of past life and potentially pave the way to — someday — step foot on its surface.
The journey will take about six months.
The UAE’s Hope Probe — the first interplanetary mission by an Arab country — launches on July 15. China plans to send its inaugural Mars probe, a small remote-controlled rover, between July 20 and July 25.
By far the most ambitious project, the US Mars 2020, has a planned launch date of July 30.
The probe — called Perseverance — is expected to spend one Mars year (or about 687 Earth days) on the planet’s surface collecting rock and soil samples that scientists hope will shed light on past life forms that may have inhabited the faraway planet.
The aim of subsequent missions will be to bring those samples back to Earth.
A fourth planned launch, the EU-Russian ExoMars, was postponed until 2022 due to the COVID-19 public health crisis.
– Traces of life –
Several dozen probes — most of them American — have set off for the Red Planet since the 1960s. Many never made it that far, or failed to land.
The drive to explore Mars flagged until the confirmation less than 10 years ago that water once flowed on its surface.
“It’s the only planet where we’ve been able to detect past signs of life, and the more we learn about it more hope there is,” Michel Viso, an astrobiologist at CNES, France’s space agency, told AFP.
“It feels like something exciting is happening, and people want to be a part of it.”
India and the European Union are also setting their sights on a Mars landing. In 2024, Japan plans to send a probe to explore the Martian moon Phobos.
As with the moon missions, different countries have invested heavily — in reputation and cash — on Mars exploration, with each looking to find their specific niche, Viso noted.
The holy grail, he added, is getting boots on the ground: “This represents the ‘ultimate frontier’ of space exploration.”
So far, only the US has done detailed feasibility studies, and in a best-case scenario achieving that goal will take at least 20 years.
A swathe of Mars lander missions over the past five decades have met with varying degrees of success since the Soviet Mars 2 and 3 probes launched in 1971.
Nasa’s Curiosity lander, which arrived in 2012 and is designed to determine whether the planet’s environment was ever able to support microbial life forms, remains operational on the surface — as does the Insight lander, which arrived in 2018.
– Martian colonies –
The UAE is thinking even longer term.
The oil-rich Gulf nation plan to establish a “science city” on Earth that will reproduce Mars’ atmospheric conditions, with the goal of establishing a human colony on the Red Planet around 2117.
Supporting human life on Mars presents a number of logistical challenges.
Today’s Mars is basically an immense, icy desert. About 3.5 billion years ago, it lost the dense atmospheric pressure that protected it from cosmic radiation.
Scientists are still trying to determine whether the planet was ever inhabited by metabolic life forms.
“Four billion years ago, the conditions on the planet’s surface were very close to those which we had on Earth when life first appeared,” including liquid water and a dense atmosphere, said Jorge Vago, the spokesperson for the European Space Agency’s ExoMars initiative.
Taking up the mantle of its robot forebears, Perseverance will explore an entirely uncharted environment, the Jezero crater — a 45-kilometre-wide area that is believed to have been the site of an ancient river delta.
It was chosen among 60 other potential landing sites, and may have sedimentary rocks that could include traces of past microbial life, liquid water and carbon.
Perseverance will collect around 40 of these samples, 30 of which will be brought back to Earth to be studied.
The results of the analysis — while not as far off as the UAE’s proposed Mars colony — will nonetheless have to wait at least 10 years.

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Mysterious pink “watermelon snow” has been appearing in the Italian Alps — and it might alert of environmental catastrophe – haveeruonline

At 1st look, the snow that is changed from white to vibrant pink in the Italian Alps would seem like a gorgeous feat of nature. But researchers say it may

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At 1st look, the snow that is changed from white to vibrant pink in the Italian Alps would seem like a gorgeous feat of nature. But researchers say it may well basically be a warning signal of environmental difficulties.
Algae are to thank or blame for the pink layer that now coats the Presena Glacier in northern Italy. Experts say it’s not an unusual phenomenon in the spring and summer time, but they alert that it could develop into a difficulty if it begins transpiring far more commonly. 
Biagio Di Mauro, of the Institute of Polar Sciences (ISP) at Italy’s National Investigation Council, traveled to the glacier last week to examine the mysterious algae. Although the phenomenon is effectively-documented, “there is reasonably minor scientific literature on this phenomenon, which has the immediate impact of accelerating the melting of snow and ice,” the institute explained. 
Photos from the trek exhibit a large algae bloom, turning substantial swaths of the glacier from white to pink. 
Biagio di Maio, a researcher at Italy’s National Investigation Council, can take samples of pink colored snow on July 4, 2020 on the prime of the Presena glacier in close proximity to Pellizzano, Italy. MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP through Getty Illustrations or photos
Di Mauro explained on Twitter that the algae was likely Chlamydomonas nivalis, a snow alga, not Ancylonema nordenskioeldi, a glacier alga. In accordance to a 2018 examine released in the journal Nature, snow algae productivity has implications for carbon dioxide in the environment.
“The alga is not unsafe, it is a natural phenomenon that occurs throughout the spring and summertime durations in the middle latitudes but also at the Poles,” Di Mauro mentioned in a press launch. 
The algae could accelerate melting in the already fragile area. Local climate modify, contributing to 2020’s unseasonably warm temperatures and lack of snow, is exacerbating the difficulty. 
Commonly, ice reflects the majority of the sun’s radiation, but algae darken the ice, triggering a decrease in albedo, or reflectivity. This causes the snow to soak up extra warmth and soften extra promptly. 
“Everything that darkens the snow will cause it to soften due to the fact it accelerates the absorption of radiation,” said Di Mauro.
In purchase to flourish, the organisms will need an available source of water. So, as the ice melts, even additional algae will look. 
In May well, Antarctica observed green snow, also caused by microscopic algae. At the time, scientists explained that as the earth warms and a lot more of Antarctica’s snow melts, the algae will only carry on to unfold.
An aerial photograph taken on July 3, 2020 over the Presena glacier near Pellizzano, exhibits pink-colored snow. MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP by using Getty Images

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