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Jurassic sea creatures spent decades crossing the ocean on rafts 

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jurassic sea creatures spent decades crossing the ocean on rafts

Jurassic sea creatures spent decades as ‘full-time ocean sailors’, crossing the sea on driftwood ‘rafts’, a study claims. 

Analysis of these rafts show they could last for as long as 20 years – enough time for the creatures, called crinoids, to grow to maturity, scientists reveal. 

The attractive marine animals, which resemble colourful sea lilies, consist of a series of plates connected together in branches with a stem. 

For crinoids, rafts became popular locations for colonies,  as the structures were high in the water and provided a safe haven to escape predators.   

There have been around 6,000 species of crinoids, about 10 per cent of which are alive today, although they don’t tend to float on rafts. 

Crinoids fossils dating back to the Jurassic period are common in Yorkshire and around the Dorset coast, including Lyme Regis, part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.

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Using a giant fossil specimen (bottom left) from Germany, researchers mapped the spatial position of crinoids (bottom right)  in one of the largest and best-preserved Early Jurassic floating wood fossils (top)

Using a giant fossil specimen (bottom left) from Germany, researchers mapped the spatial position of crinoids (bottom right)  in one of the largest and best-preserved Early Jurassic floating wood fossils (top)

Using a giant fossil specimen (bottom left) from Germany, researchers mapped the spatial position of crinoids (bottom right)  in one of the largest and best-preserved Early Jurassic floating wood fossils (top) 

‘Modern crinoids don’t typically take such journeys, but we’ve since discovered fossilised examples of groups of floating crinoids,’ wrote study author Dr Aaron W. Hunter from the University of Cambridge for The Conversation

‘However it wasn’t clear whether these were really thriving colonies living on the driftwood or just short-term passengers.

WHAT ARE CRINOIDS? 

Crinoids, a distant ancestor of today’s sea lilies.

Crinoids were abundant long ago, when they carpeted the sea floor.

These echinoderms were at their height during the Paleozoic era. 

They could be found all over the world, creating forests on the floor of the shallow seas of this time period. 

There were so many in places, that thick limestone beds were formed almost entirely from their body parts piled on top of each other. 

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‘Now my colleagues and I have shown that such rafts could last for as long as 20 years, plenty of time for crinoids to grow to maturity and become full-time ocean sailors.’

Human understanding of crinoids dates back to the 1830s, when English palaeontologist William Buckland – known for the discovery of the Megalosaurus – collected fossils with another pioneering palaeontologist, Mary Anning.

One of their discoveries was the remains of fossilised crinoids, which are close relatives of sea urchins and starfish. 

The specimens from Lyme Regis in Dorset, dating back to the Jurassic period more than 180 million years ago, looked like polished brass because they had been fossilised with pyrite, better known as fool’s gold.

Buckland noticed that these crinoid fossils were attached to small pieces of driftwood, which had turned into coal.

‘He hypothesised that the crinoids had been attached to the driftwood while alive, and perhaps for their entire lives, possibly living suspended underneath it,’ Dr Hunter said. 

‘Buckland’s idea was initially seen as fantastical and the scientific world remained sceptical, until, that is, the discovery in the 1960s of a truly spectacular group of fossils from Holzmaden, a village not far from Stuttgart, Germany.

‘In among marine reptiles, crocodiles and ammonites, were giant colonies consisting of complete logs covered with hundreds of perfectly preserved crinoids.’ 

Floating logs that ferried rich communities of sea creatures around the oceans were able to float for decades. The picture shows a reconstruction of marine life from the Jurassic period

Floating logs that ferried rich communities of sea creatures around the oceans were able to float for decades. The picture shows a reconstruction of marine life from the Jurassic period

Floating logs that ferried rich communities of sea creatures around the oceans were able to float for decades. The picture shows a reconstruction of marine life from the Jurassic period

In Jurassic times, Holzmaden had been a seabed that was uninhabitable due to low oxygen levels and the crinoids would ‘have clung for life’ to logs as there was no seabed for them to live on.

Scientists have been undecided as to whether the rafts, which feature preserved crinoid colonies, survived long enough for crinoids to grow to maturity, which can take up to 10 years.   

Dr Hunter and his team studied the ancient wood rafts, taken from multiple German museums and collections, including Geoscience Centre of the University of Göttingen and the Geological Institute, University of Tübingen.  

‘We established that the way to understand how long the colony could have lasted was to develop a “diffusion model”,’ Dr Hunter said. 

‘This estimated how long it would take before the log would become saturated with water and fail.’ 

As the wood in crinoid raft fossils hasn’t been preserved well enough to reveal what species it is from, the raft in the model was represented with a composite of trees known to exist in the Jurassic period, such as conifers, cycads and ginkgo trees. 

The analyses revealed that crinoid colonies could have existed for more than 10 years, even up to 20 years, before it started to break, exceeding the life expectancy of modern documented raft systems.

‘There is evidence from museum collections of fragments of wood with entire, fully grown crinoids attached to them that could only have resulted from this kind of collapse,’ Hunter said. 

Reconstruction of the crinoid colony based on the a giant fossil specimen from Germany. It shows the crinoids on the right hand side of the long log that makes up the raft community

Reconstruction of the crinoid colony based on the a giant fossil specimen from Germany. It shows the crinoids on the right hand side of the long log that makes up the raft community

Reconstruction of the crinoid colony based on the a giant fossil specimen from Germany. It shows the crinoids on the right hand side of the long log that makes up the raft community 

The crinoids preferred to attach themselves to one end of the log structure, just like a sea captain at the helm. 

This pattern resembles that of other modern rafting species such as goose barnacles, which tend to inhabit the area at the back of a raft where there is least resistance.

Amazingly, this could help reveal to researchers the direction of travel of the colony across the ocean.       

Other researchers had also proposed that any floating crinoid colony would have grown until the population became too heavy for the wood raft to support it, at which point the log would have sunk to the oxygen-free seafloor where the crinoids would then have become fossilised. 

‘However, research on living crinoid populations off the coast of Japan revealed that the animals would be too lightweight, even in large mature colonies, to cause a log to become overburdened and sink,’ Dr Hunter said.      

The study has been published in Royal Society Open Science.  

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Twitter goes down for more than an hour leaving thousands of users unable to access the platform

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twitter goes down for more than an hour leaving thousands of users unable to access the platform

More than 50,000 Twitter users were unable to access the website and app versions of the social media platform Thursday morning due to a worldwide outage.

Down Detector showed the outage started around 9:30am ET and was plaguing parts of the US, Europe and Asia.

Many users were met with an ‘error message’ when logging in, along with a blank news feed that only reads ‘try again’ and disabled features – all of which hindered their ability to share tweets. 

The peak of the outage hit around 10am ET, but much of the service was restored around 10:45am ET – some Twitter users may still be experiencing issues. 

More than 50,000 Twitter users were unable to access the website and app versions of the social media platform Thursday morning due to a worldwide outage. Down Detector showed the outage started around 9:30am ET and was plaguing parts of the US, Europe and Asia

More than 50,000 Twitter users were unable to access the website and app versions of the social media platform Thursday morning due to a worldwide outage. Down Detector showed the outage started around 9:30am ET and was plaguing parts of the US, Europe and Asia

More than 50,000 Twitter users were unable to access the website and app versions of the social media platform Thursday morning due to a worldwide outage. Down Detector showed the outage started around 9:30am ET and was plaguing parts of the US, Europe and Asia 

Typically when one social media site experiences an outage, users flock to Twitter to share their frustrations or ask if anyone else is having problems.

But when Twitter went down, the world may be in a frenzy.

DailyMail.com has reached out to Twitter for comment and has yet to receive a response. 

Down Detector, a platform that monitors website and online service outages, is one of the only places the public can go to check on the outage when Twitter is down. 

The outage appeared around 9:30am and is located in the US, the UK and Japan - other countries in Europe, Asia and South American are also reporting issues

The outage appeared around 9:30am and is located in the US, the UK and Japan - other countries in Europe, Asia and South American are also reporting issues

The outage appeared around 9:30am and is located in the US, the UK and Japan – other countries in Europe, Asia and South American are also reporting issues

Many users were met with an 'error message' when logging in, along with a blank news feed that only reads 'try again' and disabled features - all of which hindered their ability to share tweets

Many users were met with an 'error message' when logging in, along with a blank news feed that only reads 'try again' and disabled features - all of which hindered their ability to share tweets

Many users were met with an ‘error message’ when logging in, along with a blank news feed that only reads ‘try again’ and disabled features – all of which hindered their ability to share tweets 

The majority of the outage was plaguing the website, but users reported issues with the iOS and Android apps. 

Down Detector’s outage map showed a number of major cities in the US as red, including Seattle, San Francisco, Washington  DC and New York City.

Twitter also went down in Japan, parts of India and Indonesia, along with countries in Europe.

Users shared their frustrations on Down Detector about Twitter going down so early in the day.

Users have shared their frustrations on Down Detector about Twitter going down so early in the day. One user joke that without the site, all they can do is look at the wall

Users have shared their frustrations on Down Detector about Twitter going down so early in the day. One user joke that without the site, all they can do is look at the wall

Users have shared their frustrations on Down Detector about Twitter going down so early in the day. One user joke that without the site, all they can do is look at the wall

Another took this time to take a dig at liberals: 'I hope they fix it by 11:30AM when all the white liberals start rolling out of bed... they have some very important hashtags to tweet out today to save all the helpless minorities they are trying to rescue'

Another took this time to take a dig at liberals: 'I hope they fix it by 11:30AM when all the white liberals start rolling out of bed... they have some very important hashtags to tweet out today to save all the helpless minorities they are trying to rescue'

Another took this time to take a dig at liberals: ‘I hope they fix it by 11:30AM when all the white liberals start rolling out of bed… they have some very important hashtags to tweet out today to save all the helpless minorities they are trying to rescue’

One user joked that without the site, all they can do is look at the wall.

Another took this time to take a dig at liberals: ‘I hope they fix it by 11:30AM when all the white liberals start rolling out of bed… they have some very important hashtags to tweet out today to save all the helpless minorities they are trying to rescue.’

The peak of the outage was around 10am ET, but service was coming back shortly after, with reports decreasing about 45 minutes later.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Twitter is DOWN! Thousands of users across the world are unable to access the social media platform

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twitter is down thousands of users across the world are unable to access the social media platform

 If you are having issues with Twitter, you are not the only one – more than 40,000 users across the world are experiencing problems with the social media platform.

The social media site is experiencing an outage that seems to be hitting the website and apps on both iOS and Android.

The outage appeared around 9:30am and is located in the US, the UK and Japan – other countries in Europe, Asia and South American are also reporting issues.

Many users have been met with an ‘error message’ when logging in, along with a blank news feed. 

If you are having issues with Twitter, you are not the only one. The social media site is experiencing an outage that seems to be hitting the website and apps on both iOS and Android

If you are having issues with Twitter, you are not the only one. The social media site is experiencing an outage that seems to be hitting the website and apps on both iOS and Android

Typically when one social media site experiences an outage, users flock to Twitter to share their frustrations or ask if anyone else is having problems.

But with Twitter down, the world may be in a frenzy.

Down Detector, a platform that monitors website and online service outages, is one of the only places the public can go to check on the outage.

The outage report shows more than 48,000 people have reported issues with Twitter, which started flowing in around 9:30am ET.

The outage appeared around 9:30am and is located in the US, the UK and Japan - other countries in Europe, Asia and South American are also reporting issues. Many users have been met with an 'error message' when logging in, along with a blank news feed

The outage appeared around 9:30am and is located in the US, the UK and Japan – other countries in Europe, Asia and South American are also reporting issues. Many users have been met with an ‘error message’ when logging in, along with a blank news feed

Approximately 49 percent are experiencing issues with the website, 35 percent noted problems with Twitter on an iOS devices and 15 percent on the Android app.

Down Detector’s outage map shows a number of major cities in the US as red, including Seattle, San Francisco, Washington  DC and New York City.

Twitter has also gone down in Japan, parts of India and Indonesia.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Nuclear fusion reactor could be producing electricity within a decade 

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nuclear fusion reactor could be producing electricity within a decade

A tennis court-sized nuclear fusion reactor being developed in the US could be producing electricity within a decade, backers claim.  

The SPARC nuclear fusion reactor, a joint project involving Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is expected to begin construction on June 21 next year and take three or four years until completion.

It is hoped that SPARC will demonstrate energy gain from fusion for the first time in history by 2025, and be producing fusion energy to generate electricity to power nearby cities within 10 years. 

Nuclear fusion power works by colliding heavy hydrogen atoms to form helium, releasing vast amounts of energy, mimicking the process that occurs naturally in the centre of stars like our Sun. 

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SPARC, which is on track to begin construction in 2021 and demonstrate net energy gain from fusion for the first time in history by 2025. Pictured, artists' impression of the reactor with a human for scale

SPARC, which is on track to begin construction in 2021 and demonstrate net energy gain from fusion for the first time in history by 2025. Pictured, artists’ impression of the reactor with a human for scale

Fusion could eventually combat climate change by replacing energy sources that emit greenhouse gases, such as coal and gas. 

Fusion also provides cheap, clean and safe energy without radioactive waste, or the risk of meltdown. 

SPARC will pave the way for the first commercially viable fusion power plant, called ARC. 

MIT said limitations imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic have only slightly slowed progress on SPARC and researchers are back in the labs under new operating guidelines. 

‘The work is progressing smoothly and on track,’ said MIT, which is working with Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS) on SPARC. 

A fusion power plant could provide clean, carbon-free energy with an essentially unlimited fuel supply. From the point of view of electrical power generation, the fusion device is just another heat source that could be used in a conventional thermal conversion cycle.

A fusion power plant could provide clean, carbon-free energy with an essentially unlimited fuel supply. From the point of view of electrical power generation, the fusion device is just another heat source that could be used in a conventional thermal conversion cycle. 

‘No unexpected impediments or surprises have shown up, and the remaining challenges appear to be manageable,’ it said in a statement.  

SPARC is set to be the first experimental device ever to achieve a ‘burning plasma’ – a self-sustaining fusion reaction in which different isotopes of the element hydrogen fuse together to form helium, without the need for any further input of energy. 

When deuterium and tritium nuclei – which can be found in hydrogen – fuse, they form a helium nucleus, a neutron and a lot of energy.

This is done by heating the fuel to temperatures in excess of 270,000,000°F (150,000,000°C) and forming a hot plasma – a gaseous soup of subatomic particles – held in place by magnets.

The strong magnetic fields are used to keep the plasma away from the reactor’s walls, so that it doesn’t cool down and lose its energy potential.

Fusion power works by colliding heavy hydrogen atoms to form helium - releasing vast amounts of energy in the process, as occurs naturally in the centre of stars

Fusion power works by colliding heavy hydrogen atoms to form helium – releasing vast amounts of energy in the process, as occurs naturally in the centre of stars

These fields are produced by superconducting coils surrounding the vessel and by an electrical current driven through the plasma.    

Information gathered from the behaviour of burning plasma is ‘crucial’ for developing the next step – a working prototype of a practical, power-generating power plant, the SPARC team said. 

Once this is up and running, key information can be gained that will help pave the way to commercial, power-producing fusion devices. 

Fuel running these devices – the hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium – can be made available in virtually limitless supplies. 

Work on the first stage of the SPARC project is the development of the superconducting magnets that would allow smaller fusion systems to be built. 

Fusion power plants are set to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the power-generation sector, which is one of the major sources of these emissions globally.    

SPARC is designed to achieve what is called a Q factor – a key parameter denoting the efficiency of a fusion plasma – of at least two.

This essentially means that twice as much fusion energy is produced as the amount of energy pumped in to generate the reaction. 

Fusion joins two light elements (with a low atomic mass number), forming a heavier element, to generate energy. Pictured, artist's illustration (stock image)

Fusion joins two light elements (with a low atomic mass number), forming a heavier element, to generate energy. Pictured, artist’s illustration (stock image)

If realised, SPARC would be the first time a fusion plasma of any kind has produced more energy than it consumed. 

Computer calculations and simulation tools show SPARC could actually achieve a Q ratio of 10 or more, MIT claims.

A series of papers authored by 47 researchers from 12 institutions have been published in Journal of Plasma Physics summarising progress on SPARC. 

Together, the papers outline the theoretical and empirical physics basis for the new fusion system before it starts construction next year. 

‘The MIT group is pursuing a very compelling approach to fusion energy,’ said Chris Hegna, a professor of engineering physics at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, who was not connected to this work. 

‘They realised the emergence of high-temperature superconducting technology enables a high magnetic field approach to producing net energy gain from a magnetic confinement system. 

Pictured, one of two 800-tonne vacuum vessel assembly tools, as captured by the artist Luca Zanier, involved in the construction of the much larger ITER Tokamak reactor now being built in France

Pictured, one of two 800-tonne vacuum vessel assembly tools, as captured by the artist Luca Zanier, involved in the construction of the much larger ITER Tokamak reactor now being built in France

‘This work is a potential game-changer for the international fusion program​.’ 

The SPARC design would achieve fusion performance comparable to that expected in the much larger ITER Tokamak now being built in France. 

The Provence-based ITER project is expected to begin delivering power in 2035 – several years later than SPARC if all goes to plan for the US team. 

‘We’re really focused on how you can get to fusion power as quickly as possible,’ CFS CEO Bob Mumgaard told the New York Times.

SPARC would be far smaller than ITER – about the size of a tennis court, compared with a soccer field, Mumgaard said. 

High power in a small size is made possible by advances in superconducting magnets that allow for a much stronger magnetic field to confine the hot plasma, MIT said. 

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NUCLEAR FUSION AND NUCLEAR FISSION 

 Both are nuclear processes, in that they involve nuclear forces to change the nucleus of atoms.

Fusion joins two light elements (with a low atomic mass number), forming a heavier element.

For fusion to occur, hydrogen atoms are placed under high heat and pressure until they fuse together.

Meanwhile, fission splits a heavy element (with a high atomic mass number) into fragments.

In both cases, energy is freed because the mass of the remaining nucleus is smaller than the mass of the reacting nuclei.

The reason why opposite processes release energy can be understood by examining the binding energy per nucleon curve. Both fusion and fission reactions shift the size of the reactant nuclei towards higher bounded nuclei.

Source: International Atomic Energy Agency  

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