News Briefs 02-09-2016

“There's no earthly way of knowing, Which direction we are going…”

Quote of the Day:

“There's no knowing where we're rowing… Or which way the river's flowing.”

Willy Wonka

That Time Canada Almost Botched the End of World War II By Signing on the Wrong Line...

Error on Japanese Instrument of Surrender

We've all been there. You've got to fill out a long form, and halfway through you realise that you put your first name in the surname space, or put today's date instead of your birthdate, or signed your name on the wrong line.

Most times it's a simple matter of asking for another form, or correcting your mistake and handing it over with a sheepish apology. But what if you screwed up one of the most important documents of the 20th century? That's exactly what Colonel Lawrence Moore Cosgrave did when signing the Japanese Instrument of Surrender on September 2nd, 1945 - the document that marked the official end of World War II.

After Japanese officials had signed the document, and General Douglas MacArthur had countersigned it in his role as 'Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers', the individual representatives of the Allies then added their own signatures: first the U.S. representative, followed by China, the U.K, the U.S.S.R. and Australia. But when Colonel Cosgrave scribbled his moniker, he made the mistake of putting it below the line, instead of above.

The error has been attributed to Cosgrave being blind in one eye, as a result of a World War I injury. It has to be said though, that looking at the form it seems an easy mistake to make, if you were feeling a bit nervous and rushed: in looking for the appropriate spot to sign, one would look for and find 'Dominion of Canada Representative', before the eyes naturally dropped down to the next line. Which, unfortunately for Col. Cosgrave, was the line reserved for the French representative, not him.

Each subsequent representative then continued signing their name one line below where they should have been, until it came time for the New Zealand delegate to add the final signature...but there was no line. Undaunted, he simply added his signature in the white space beneath.

The unfortunate result, however, was that names were being signed to spaces that were titled for other representatives - and any legal document generally has to be done exactly by the books, lest it be considered invalid. And when we're talking about ending the worst conflict in human history, that's not something you want to happen.

Happily, it didn't take long to resolve:

When the Japanese delegation protested – could they accept a botched surrender document? – Douglas MacArthur’s famously brusque chief of staff General Richard Sutherland scratched out the now-incorrect list of Allied delegates and handwrote the correct titles under each signature, adding his initials to each correction to forestall further protest. The Japanese were then dismissed from the USS Missouri with a short “Now it’s all fine” from Gen. Sutherland.

Regardless, we can only assume Colonel Cosgrave was left rather red-faced by his faux pas...being Canadian, he was probably quick to say sorry. Sadly for him though, his mistake has been preserved for future generations to see, as the historic document is on display at Japan’s Edo-Tokyo Museum (the Allied copy has no such error).

Link: High-res of the Instrument of Japanese Surrender

News Briefs 01-09-2016


Thanks Kat, Alistair, @AnomalistNews and @CatVincent.

Quote of the Day:

The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be.

Douglas Adams

Only a Month Until Westworld Premieres on HBO - Here's the Latest Trailer

HBO doing an artificial intelligence Western produced by Jonathan Nolan, with Anthony Hopkins and Ed Harris starring? I'm totally in for the upcoming Westworld, which premieres on October 2nd.

Westworld is based on the 1973 movie of the same name, written and directed by Michael Crichton, which tells the tale of an adult amusement park where visitors can engage in various elements of the 'Wild West' theme enacted by humanoid robots - and by engage, I mean do everything from fighting to screwing the androids. Which sounds pretty much right up HBO's alley...

The series is being brought to television by Jonathan Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises, Interstellar) and J.J. Abrams' Bad Robot production company - the same pairing which produced Person of Interest.

Related stories:

News Briefs 31-08-2016

Wait for it

Quote of the Day:

I had so many people try to talk me out of starting a rocket company, it was crazy.

Elon Musk

Join the Search for the Lost Cities of Ancient Peru

Earlier this month I posted a TED talk by (and additional documentary about) 'space archaeologist' Sarah Parcak. That TED talk was a rather brief overview of the million dollar TED prize winner and her plans for 'citizen archaeology' via satellites, but the above talk is more recent, and devoted to discussing the start of the project, in particular its focus on lost archaeological sites in Peru:

Around the world, hundreds of thousands of lost ancient sites lie buried and hidden from view. Satellite archaeologist Sarah Parcak is determined to find them before looters do. With the 2016 TED Prize, Parcak is building an online citizen-science tool called GlobalXplorer that will train an army of volunteer explorers to find and protect the world's hidden heritage. In this talk, she offers a preview of the first place they'll look: Peru — the home of Machu Picchu, the Nazca lines and other archaeological wonders waiting to be discovered.

You can sign up to be a beta tester, and receive updates on the project, at the GlobalXplorer website. More details about the venture can be found in the article "Finding the legendary lost cultures of ancient Peru".

Related stories:

News Briefs 30-08-2016

It could be worse...

Thanks Kat and @djp1974.

Quote of the Day:

We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of the dreams.

Gene Wilder (as Willy Wonka, from Arthur O'Shaughnessy's Ode)

Researchers Announce Discovery of a Signal Coming from a Star in Hercules

Not aliens...but aliens

An international team of researchers has revealed the detection of “a strong signal" coming from the direction of a star in the constellation of Hercules (HD164595). The signal was picked up by the RATAN-600 radio telescope at the Special Astrophysical Observatory of the Russian Academy of Science.

As always, there are a number of possible mundane explanations for the 2.7cm wavelength 'transmission' - which was originally detected last year on May 15 - ranging from passing satellites through to micro-lensing of a background source. But it's still definitely worth looking for a repetition of the signal, and SETI researchers are no doubt cautiously excited.

No one is claiming that this is the work of an extraterrestrial civilization, but it is certainly worth further study. Working out the strength of the signal, the researchers say that if it came from an isotropic beacon, it would be of a power possible only for a Kardashev Type II civilization. If it were a narrow beam signal focused on our Solar System, it would be of a power available to a Kardashev Type I civilization. The possibility of noise of one form or another cannot be ruled out, and researchers in Paris led by Jean Schneider are considering the possible microlensing of a background source by HD164595. But the signal is provocative enough that the RATAN-600 researchers are calling for permanent monitoring of this target.

Signal detected coming from vicinity of HD 164595

HD 164595 is just under 100 light years from Earth, and an exoplanet (HD 164595 b) has previously been detected orbiting the star. As Paul Gilster notes at Centauri Dreams, the planet is "0.05 Jupiter mass with a period of 40 days, considered to be a warm Neptune on a circular orbit". But there could also be other, still undetected planets also orbiting HB 164595.

Geekwire science journalist Alan Boyle spoke with SETI researcher Douglas Vakoch about the announcement, and he confirmed that his team will be taking a look at HD 164595 as soon as possible, using the Boquete Optical SETI Observatory in Panama. Not only purely out of interest and excitement, but also because SETI protocols require it:

Standard SETI protocols call for confirmation of possible signals from a separate observatory. This helps ensure that the original signal didn’t arise from a technical glitch in the original observatory, and it helps rule out a hoax perpetuated by some enterprising graduate students targeting a SETI experiment.

In the past, plans for SETI follow-up observations have focused on confirmation of the original signal, seeking a repeat signal at the same frequency. That’s a critical step for confirmation – and we don’t yet have evidence that this sort of follow-up has happened for HD 164595.

In addition, we need to be alert to the possibility than if we do really find a signal from an advanced civilization, they are also transmitting at other frequencies than the one where we first detected them. That’s why it’s so important to prepare for follow-up SETI observations at both radio and optical frequencies, to be launched as soon as we detect a credible candidate signal at any frequency.

Be sure to read the full articles at both Centauri Dreams and GeekWire via the links below.

Link: An Interesting SETI Candidate in Hercules (Centauri Dreams)

Link: They’re not saying it’s aliens, but signal traced to sunlike star sparks SETI interest (GeekWire)

News Briefs 29-08-2016

You're capable of great things...

Thanks Kat.

Quote of the Day:

We are meant to be the ones who decide what happens to us: as voters, as consumers, as lovers. But that’s not true any more. We are what gives networks their power: they use our ideas of meaning to determine what will happen to us.

David Runciman (review of Yuval Noah Harari's Homo Deus)