UK’s Halley Antarctic base set for second closure

Halley

The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) will once again close its Halley station at the end of the coming Southern Hemisphere summer.

The base sits on the floating Brunt Ice Shelf, which is currently being incised by two large developing cracks.

BAS withdrew its staff from Halley this past winter because of uncertainty over how these fissures would evolve.

The survey has now confirmed it will do the same again when the approaching summer season comes to an end.

“What we are witnessing is the power and unpredictability of nature,” said BAS director Prof Dame Jane Francis.

“The safety of our staff is our priority in these circumstances. Our Antarctic summer research operation will continue as planned, and we are confident of mounting a fast uplift of personnel should fracturing of the ice shelf occur.

“However, because access to the station by ship or aircraft is extremely difficult during the winter months of 24-hour darkness, extremely low temperatures and the frozen sea, we will once again take the precaution of shutting down the station before the 2018 Antarctic winter (March – November) begins.”

BAS staff will fly into Halley this week to open it up. One of their key tasks in the next few months will be to install automated experiments that can run in winter temperatures of -50C, and cope with snow and high winds.

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The UK has had a permanent presence on the Brunt Ice Shelf since 1956.

Together with the Rothera base on the Antarctic Peninsula, Halley spearheads British activity on the White Continent.

The station gathers important weather and climate data, and it played a critical role in the research that identified the ozone “hole” in 1985.

In recent years, Halley has also become a major centre for studying solar activity and the impacts this can have on Earth.

But its position on a 150m-thick mobile platform of ice has always had a bearing on its operations.

LegsImage copyrightBAS/P.BUCKTROUT
Image captionHalley VI’s move was made possible by a hydraulic leg and ski system

In the past, as the shelf has moved seaward to calve icebergs, the buildings that make up the base have either been abandoned or torn down.

New structures have then been built “upstream”.

The latest incarnation of the station, Halley VI, is somewhat different in that it incorporates legs and skis that allow it periodically to be towed to a new location.

Its first big move took place in February, to get the base behind a large chasm that had started opening again after more than 30 years of dormancy.

But it was a timely decision because another crack (known as Halloween crack) had also begun moving across the ice.

And both fissures, which threaten at some point to spawn colossal icebergs, have continued to propagate through the winter.

Map of Brunt Ice Shelf
Image captionScientists use ground sensors and satellites to monitor the cracks

In a report published this month in the journal The Cryosphere, BAS scientists said the future behaviour of the Brunt shelf now depended on how the two cracks interacted with a series of bumps on the seafloor known as the McDonald rumples. These are a pinning point for the shelf and act to buttress it.

If calving results in a substantial loss of ice around the rumples then the whole shelf will speed up. A similar event in the early 1970s led to a two-fold increase in flow velocity.

The early operations team going into Halley this week will be followed by a larger group of staff on the Royal Research Ship Ernest Shackleton, which will come in from Cape Town and moor up against the ice shelf to unload supplies.

BAS director of science Prof David Vaughan said researchers had already planned for the possibility of another winter closure, and would set up a kerosene-fuelled generator to power automated instruments.

“It is, I should stress, at this stage just a prototype power system,” he told BBC News.

“For it to keep running at -50C with nobody around to chip the ice off it or keep the snow away from it will be a significant challenge.

“But if it works and the instruments attached to it keep working, then we will collect several of the data streams that would otherwise have been lost, including the ozone measurements.”

Emissions gap remains ‘alarmingly high’ says UN

wind

In its annual review, the UN says the gap between carbon cutting plans and the reductions required to keep temperature rises below 2 degrees Celsius is “alarmingly high”.

Pledges made so far cover only one-third of the cuts needed by 2030 to keep below that goal, the review warns.

Even if all the promises are kept, temperatures might still rise by 3 degrees by 2100.

However, cost-effective options are available that can close the gap.

The UN has published an annual analysis of emissions every year since 2010.

This year’s instalment re-iterates the point that current pledges are insufficient to keep within the temperature limits agreed in the Paris climate pact.

Emissions from human activities involving burning fossil fuels have stalled since 2014, caused by a reduction in coal use in China and the US, as well as the rapid rise of renewable energy sources.

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Despite this slowdown, the World Meteorological Organization warned on Mondaythat concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere were at a record high.

The new emissions gap report finds that global greenhouse emissions by 2020 “are likely to be at the high end of the range” consistent with keeping temperature rises below 2 degrees or 1.5C.

Chart showing predicted global emissions and gap between pledges made to reduce emissions and target

By 2030 the UN says that the global scale of emissions needed to keep within the 2-degree path should not exceed 42 gigatonnes of CO2-equivalent. Based on the promises made, this report projects a gap of 11 to 13 gigatonnes, while for the 1.5-degree target, the gap is 16 to 19 gigatonnes.

“The Paris agreement boosted climate action, but momentum is clearly faltering,” said Dr Edgar E Gutiérrez-Espeleta, Costa Rica’s minister for environment and president of the 2017 UN Environment Assembly.

“We face a stark choice: up our ambition, or suffer the consequences.”

Ominously, the report warns that if the emissions gap is not closed by 2030 then “it is extremely unlikely that the goal of holding global warming to well below 2 degrees C can still be reached”.

The report suggests that signatories of the Paris accord must significantly increase their ambitions in the new and updated national plans that will have to be submitted by 2020.

The authors also say that the private sector and cities are not doing enough. The report points out that the world’s 100 largest emitting, publicly traded companies account for a quarter of global greenhouse emissions.

However, the UN says there are some relatively cheap options that can be taken up that have the potential to radically change the picture.

coalImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionGlobal coal reserves will have to stay in the ground to meet global temperature targets

They say that solar, wind, efficient appliances, efficient passenger cars, planting more trees and preventing deforestation would more than cover the emissions gap.

The recommended actions in these areas would have a modest or net-negative cost says the report and could shave 22 gigtonnes of carbon equivalent by 2030.

“One year after the Paris agreement entered into force, we still find ourselves in a situation where we are not doing nearly enough to save hundreds of millions of people from a miserable future,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment.

“This is unacceptable. If we invest in the right technologies, ensuring that the private sector is involved, we can still meet the promise we made to our children to protect their future. But we have to get on the case now.”

If the Paris targets are to be reached then coal use for energy must stop the report warns. Some 80-90% of reserves must remain in the ground. This compares to around 35% for oil and 50% for gas reserves.

In terms of which countries as doing their fair share, the UN report says China, the EU, India and Japan are on track to meet their 2020 pledges.

Should the US follow through on its promise to leave the Paris pact, the report states that the picture will become bleaker.

The man who keeps venomous monsters

What is the most terrifying creature in the darkest corner of your imagination?

I tell you now, it may have to go some to beat this beast.

It’s a disgusting worm-like organism that grabs you with four metal-reinforced jaws.

Once latched in place, these lances inject you with a paralysing venom that also liquefies your flesh, which the worm then proceeds to suck up. Nice.

Ok, the critter may not be much longer than your little finger, but the close-up image certainly makes the stomach churn.

Gila monsterImage copyrightNHM
Image captionThe “Gila monster” has led to a blockbuster drug that is now used to manage diabetes

The bloodworm is one of the many “stars” that will feature in an exhibition dedicated to venomous animals, set to open at London’s Natural History Museum (NHM) next week.

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If you have an aversion to spiders, snakes, ants, wasps, scorpions, and even to the unassuming platypus (yes, it’s also venomous) – then I suggest you don’t go.

But if you’re fascinated by evolution and some of the remarkable biochemistry it’s managed to cook up over the last half-a-billion years – you’re unlikely to be disappointed.

And the truth is, we can’t escape what’s all around us anyway. They say you’re never more than six feet from a rat. Well, the same is equally true of venomous creatures or the products and services they provide to us.

It’s time to face and love the horror.

BloodwormImage copyrightNHM
Image captionThe worm with a Halloween mask: Bloodworms are a favourite of neuroscientists

“If you eat fruit; well, they’re pollinated by bees, which are venomous,” says Dr Ronald Jenner, the NHM’s venom evolution expert.

“Figs are pollinated by parasitoid wasps. If you eat squid or octopus – they’re venomous.

“They use venoms in cosmetics – face-masks use a synthetic version of a snake peptide that relaxes the muscles.

“You may not know this but your diabetes medicine is most likely a synthetic version of a toxin.

“The red wine you drink has been clarified often with the swim bladders of venomous catfish. They don’t put it on the label, but venom’s tendrils are in your life.

“The cotton clothes you wear – the only reason we can grow the cotton in such large monocultures is because parasitoid wasps take out all the sap-sucking insects that would otherwise damage the crop. Without venom, we’d be scuppered.”

Vampire batImage copyrightNHM
Image captionVampire bats’ venom keeps the blood flowing in their victims

It’s hard not to be enthused by Ronald when he takes you on a tour of his favourite NHM monsters.

Thankfully, they’re all dead and a good many are behind glass, submerged in preserving liquid, which means you can get a very close look at their weaponry.

Venom is a toxin – usually a kind of peptide or large protein – that is actively delivered through a wound via a specialised mechanism, involving teeth, fangs, claws, spurs or a stinger. Believe it or not, there’s even a newt that does it with its ribs. It breaks them first, pokes them through glands in its skin and then injects its foe.

Velvet antImage copyrightNHM
Image captionMasters of the Halloween costume competition: Velvet ants are actually wasps

Ronald works a lot with that ugly bloodworm – or the “worm with a Halloween mask”, as he calls it.

It delivers a neurotoxin that has found use in labs across the world to study nerve cell communication.

“When the bloodworm injects a crustacean prey, it causes a spastic paralysis. But what’s remarkable is that this effect is reversible,” he explains.

“Scientists have fractionated the venom to get just that bit that activates cell communication channels. They apply it to the cell culture, study the process of communication, and then wash the effect away with a buffer. It was only this year that we’ve seen the full molecular structure of this protein and it’s huge and unlike anything else in nature.”

Egyptian cobraImage copyrightNHM
Image captionAn Egyptian cobra’s paralysing venom can kill but some prey have now evolved resistance

Some venoms will jellify the blood so the victim will suffer clots, leading to stroke and rapid death. Some venoms act as an anti-clotting agent. Vampire bats use this strategy so they can keep on sucking from a wound.

As gory as all this is, it’s easy to see the enormous pharmaceutical potential.

The most famous example is probably the Brazilian pit viper whose venom is able to rapidly lower the blood pressure of its victims so they pass out and drop to the ground.

The snake’s venom showed scientists the way to some of the first angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors to treat high-blood pressure in humans.

Peacock spiderImage copyrightNHM
Image captionPeacock spider: Nearly every arachnid is venomous

Then there’s the “Gila monster”. Its painful bite incorporates a peptide that regulates glucose.

AstraZeneca markets a drug based on this molecule called Exenatide, which is used to manage Type II diabetes. Its value runs to hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Of course, everyone wants to know what is the most lethal member in Ronald’s collection. “I always get asked what is the worst of the worst”, he says.

Comparing venoms is not straightforward because this form of chemical warfare can be highly specialised: what works on one type of prey may be much less effective on another. But the NHM expert clearly has a soft spot for the coastal taipan snake, which is found on the northern coast of Australia and in New Guinea.

Komodo dragonImage copyrightNHM
Image captionThe komodo dragon uses venom to lower the blood pressure of its victim, inducing shock

In toxinology, researchers use a measure called the “median lethal dose” to describe a venom’s power.

“If the total yield of the strongest venom ever measured in a taipan was delivered in a full bite – that could kill 50% of 3.3 million mice. That’s insane,” says Ronald.

Venom delivery as a means to take down prey or to defend against predation has evolved independently about 90 times in nature and now includes some 200,000 living species.

That is testament to venom’s usefulness. And almost every animal would have the genetic toolkit to evolve the capability.

“You could even make humans venomous,” chuckles Ronald. “It would involve selective breeding and might take two millions years – but you could definitely do it. Our saliva would be a good place to start.”

Venom: Killer and Cure opens at the Natural History Museum on Friday, 10 November.

ScorpionImage copyrightNHM
Image captionVenom is a toxin that is actively delivered via specialised mechanism

Asteroid impact plunged dinosaurs into catastrophic ‘winter’

Artwork impact

Scientists say they now have a much clearer picture of the climate catastrophe that followed the asteroid impact on Earth 66 million years ago.

The event is blamed for the demise of three-quarters of plant and animal species, including the dinosaurs.

The researchers’ investigations suggest the impact threw more than 300 billion tonnes of sulphur into the atmosphere.

This would have dropped temperatures globally below freezing for several years.

Ocean temperatures could have been affected for centuries. The abrupt change explains why so many species struggled to survive.

“We always thought there was this global winter but with these new, tighter constraints, we can be much more sure about what happened,” Prof Joanna Morgan, from Imperial College London, told BBC News.

The new assessment is reported in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

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Lift boat MyrtleImage copyrightMAX ALEXANDER/B612/ASTEROID DAY
Image captionThe drill project is revealing new insights on one of the most astonishing events in Earth history

The UK geophysicist was the co-lead investigator on the 2016 project to drill into what remains of the impactor’s crater under the Gulf of Mexico.

She and colleagues spent several weeks retrieving the rock samples that would allow them to reconstruct precisely how the Earth reacted to being punched by a high-velocity space object.

Their study suggests the asteroid approached the surface from the north-east, striking what was then a shallow sea at an oblique angle of 60 degrees.

Roughly 12km wide and moving at about 18km/s, the stony impactor instantly excavated and vaporised thousands of billions of tonnes of rock.

This material included a lot of sulphur-containing minerals such as gypsum and anhydrite, but also carbonates which yielded carbon dioxide.

The team’s calculations estimate the quantities ejected upwards at high speed into the upper atmosphere included 325 gigatonnes of sulphur (give or take 130Gt) and perhaps 425Gt of carbon dioxide (plus or minus 160Gt).

The CO2 would eventually have a longer-term warming effect, but the release of so much sulphur, combined with soot and dust, would have had an immediate and very severe cooling effect.

Jo MorganImage copyrightMAX ALEXANDER/B612/ASTEROID DAY
Image captionProf Morgan pictured with some of the rock samples drilled from beneath the Gulf of Mexico

An independent group earlier this year used a global climate model to simulate what would happen if 100Gt of sulphur and 1,400Gt of carbon dioxide were ejected as a result of the impact.

This research, led by Julia Brugger from the University of Potsdam, Germany, found global annual mean surface air temperatures would decrease by at least 26C, with three to 16 years spent at subzero conditions.

“Julia’s inputs in the earlier study were conservative on the sulphur. But we now have improved numbers,” explained Prof Morgan.

“We now know, for example, the direction and angle of impact, so we know which rocks were hit. And that allows us to calibrate the generation of gases much better. If Julia got that level of cooling on 100Gt of sulphur, it must have been much more severe given what we understand now.”

The generation of what has become known as the Chicxulub Crater was an astonishing event.

The initial hole punched in the Earth would have been about 30km deep and 80-100km across. Unstable, and under the pull of gravity, the sides of this depression would then have collapsed inwards.

At the same time, the centre of the bowl likely rebounded, briefly lifting rock higher than the Himalayas, before also falling down to cover the inward-rushing sides of the initial hole. And although this violent reconfiguration of the Earth’s crust took just minutes to complete, its consequences led to the fifth great mass extinction on our planet.


Chicxulub Crater – The impact that changed life on Earth

Drill siteImage copyrightNASA
Image captionThe outer rim (white arc) of the crater lies under the Yucatan Peninsula itself, but the inner peak ring is best accessed offshore
  • A 12km-wide object dug a hole in Earth’s crust 100km across and 30km deep
  • This bowl then collapsed, leaving a crater 200km across and a few km deep
  • The crater’s centre rebounded and collapsed again, producing an inner ring
  • Today, much of the crater is buried offshore, under 600m of sediments
  • On land, it is covered by limestone, but its rim is traced by an arc of sinkholes
CenoteImage copyrightMAX ALEXANDER/B612/ASTEROID DAY
Image captionMexico’s famous sinkholes (cenotes) have formed in weakened limestone overlying the crater

The project to drill into Chicxulub Crater was conducted by the European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling (ECORD) as part of the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP). The expedition was also supported by the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP).

Santa’s ancient tomb discovered in Turkey

WARNING: This article has the potential to ruin Christmas. Well, sort of.

IT’S a mystery thousands of years in the making.

Archaeologists in Turkey have stumbled on a tomb beneath the ruins of an ancient church they believe contains the remains of Saint Nicholas — or, as he more popularly known, Santa Claus.

A portion of the site believed to contain the undamaged grave was discovered in St. Nicholas Church, located in Turkey’s southern Antalya province.

Experts believe the original grave of St Nicholas is the grave of of an anonymous priest.

Experts believe the original grave of St Nicholas is the grave of of an anonymous priest.Source:Supplied

The Demre district in which the church is found is known to be the revered Christian saint’s birthplace.

The head of Antalya’s Monument Authority, Cemil Karabayram, told Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News the shrine was discovered during electronic surveys that showed gaps beneath the church.

“We believe this shrine has not been damaged at all, but it is quite difficult to get to it as there are mosaics on the floor,” Karabayram said.

In the delicate excavation process, archaeologists will loosen each tile individually from the mosaics and remove them together in a mould.

The common belief among Catholic and Orthodox Christians is that St Nicholas’s remains lie in the Basilica di San Nicola in Bari, Italy.

Turkish experts now claim the wrong bones were removed in tn the year 1087 and those taken abroad belong to an anonymous priest.

The real-life Santa Claus was praised for his generosity, especially toward children, which led to his image evolving into the jolly guy in the red suit.

Archaeologists uncover proof of how Ancient Egyptians built the Great Pyramid in 2600BC

NEW evidence reveals the Ancient Egyptians constructed the Great Pyramid at Giza by transporting 170,000 tonnes of limestone in boats.

It has long been known that the rock was extracted 13km away in Tura and that granite used in the monumental structure was quarried 858km away in Aswan, reportsThe Sun.

However, archaeologists have disagreed over how the material was transported to Giza, now part of modern-day Cairo, for construction of Pharaoh Khufu’s tomb in 2600BC.

Now that mystery could be a step closer to being solved after the discovery of an ancient scroll of papyrus, a ceremonial boat and a network of waterways, reported the Mail on Sunday.

The new evidence shows that thousands of labourers transported 170,000 tonnes of limestone along the River Nile in wooden boats built with planks and rope.

The Great Pyramid of Giza and the Sphinx in Egypt. Picture: Supplied

The Great Pyramid of Giza and the Sphinx in Egypt. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied

The 2.5-tonne blocks were ferried through a system of specially designed canals before arriving at an inland port built just yards away from the base of the Great Pyramid.

The papyrus scroll is the only first-hand record of how the pyramid was built, and was written by an overseer named Merer.

An ancient papyrus scroll that dates back to 2600BC has been recently discovered. Picture: Channel 4

An ancient papyrus scroll that dates back to 2600BC has been recently discovered. Picture: Channel 4Source:Supplied

He explained in detail how the limestone was moved from the quarry in Tura to Giza using the Bronze Age waterways.

Archaeologist Mark Lehner has also uncovered evidence of a waterway underneath the plateau the pyramid sits on.

He said: “We’ve outlined the central canal basin, which we think was the primary delivery area to the foot of the Giza Plateau.”

Fossil find pushes back human evolution by 100,000 years

HOMO sapiens appeared at least 260,000 to 350,000 years ago.

That’s the conclusion being drawn from a new fossil find in Morocco.

Previously, the oldest known fossils clearly from our species were a bit less than 200,000 years old, from Ethiopia.

For the new work, scientists studied DNA extracted from human remains found in South Africa. The fossils came from three Stone Age hunter-gatherers who lived about 2000 years ago, and four Iron Age farmers who lived about 300 to 500 years ago.

The researchers compared their genetic material to DNA from other ancient people as well as a variety of modern-day humans.

The goal was to use differences to estimate when various populations split apart from each other. Since those splits had occurred between people, our species must have emerged by the time the splits happened, said Mattias Jakobsson of Uppsala University in Sweden.

Digital diorama at Moesgaard Museum from ART+COM on Vimeo.

Jakobsson and his team put the earliest split they could detect at 260,000 to 350,000 years ago. That’s when ancestors of today’s Khoisan peoples in Africa diverged from the ancestors of other people, they calculated in a paper released on Thursday by the journal Science.

Our species could have emerged much earlier, Jakobsson said.

But not everyone is convinced. The calculations relied on assumptions that could make splits seem older than they really were, said Todd Disotell, an anthropology professor at New York University who did not participate in the new study.

Disotell said he prefers prior DNA work that suggests an earliest split at around 200,000 years.

Passing asteroid to test Earth’s warning systems

A HOUSE-SIZE asteroid will give Earth a near-miss this Thursday, passing inside the Moon’s orbit while giving experts a rare chance to rehearse for a real-life strike threat.

Dubbed 2012 TC4, the space rock will shave past at an altitude of less than 44,000 kilometres — just above the 36,000-km plane at which hundreds of geosynchronous satellites orbit the Earth.

That represents about an eighth of the distance between the Earth and the Moon.

NASA’s Mike Kelley, who leads the exercise to spot, track and intimately probe the transient visitor, insisted there was “no danger. Not even for satellites”.

“We’ve now been observing TC4 for two months, so we have very accurate position information on it, which in turn allows very precise calculations of its orbit,” which will not cross that of Earth nor its satellites, he said.

As its name suggests, the object was first spotted five years ago when it called on Earth at about double Thursday’s projected distance, before disappearing from view.

It is 15 to 30 metres wide — about the size of the meteoroid that exploded in the atmosphere over Chelyabinsk in central Russia in 2013 with 30 times the kinetic energy of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

The resulting shockwave blew out the windows of nearly 5,000 buildings and injured more than 1,200 people.

While the Chelyabinsk event caught everyone unawares, TC4 is one of thousands of space rocks whose whereabouts are known. Millions are not.

On its 609-day loop around the Sun, TC4 will return to Earth in 2050 and 2079, according to Ruediger Jehn of the European Space Agency’s Near-Earth Object program in the Netherlands.

“We know today that it will also not hit the Earth in the year 2050, but the close fly-by in 2050 might deflect the asteroid such that it could hit the Earth in the year 2079,” he told AFP by email.

With a one-in-750 chance of hitting the planet then, TC4 is listed at number 13 on the “risk list” of objects posing even the remotest impact risk.

‘WE ARE PRACTISING’

“We need to make very precise observations to be able to better predict the return in the year 2050,” Jehn said.

Fly-bys like this one are actually quite common — about three objects similar in size to TC4 graze past at a similar distance every year.

What makes TC4 special is that it has been chosen to test the global asteroid pre-warning system, fed by a network of observatories, universities and labs around the world.

The asteroid’s close approach will allow teams to evaluate how accurate they were in predicting its orbit and size, while using telescopes to learn more about its composition.

“For us this is a test case,” said Jehn’s colleague Detlef Koschny. “We are practising for the real serious case.”

The passing asteroid will provide valuable learning experience for scientists.

The passing asteroid will provide valuable learning experience for scientists.Source:News Limited

Many scientists believe the Earth will once again be hit by a space rock of the size that wiped out the dinosaurs, though nobody knows when.

And even if they become better at predicting a strike, there is very little to be done about it, for now.

Futuristic projects mooted to deflect or destroy incoming space rocks have come to nought so far, and the only strategy would be to evacuate people in zones at risk.

TC4 will make its closest approach to Earth about 4:40pm Thursday AEST, at a point south of Australia, according to ESA and NASA.

It will not be visible to the naked eye nor with regular binoculars, “but it can be seen in the night of 11-12 October until about 4.00am from European observatories,” Jehn said.

Magic mushrooms could be the key to treating people with depression

A NEW study suggests that a hallucinogen found in magic mushrooms may be the next step in treating people with depression.

The ingredient in question is called psilocybin, which is a naturally occurring psychedelic and reportedly works by “resetting” the brain.

A team of researchers at Imperial College London conducted a small study of 19 patients who were diagnosed with depression, in which they gave them a single dose of psilocybin and monitored their brain activity before and after.

The treatment produced “rapid and sustained antidepressant effects”, with half of the patients no longer showing signs of depression, along with a change in their brain activity that lasted up to five weeks.

The scans that were performed before the drug was administered and then again a day later revealed two key areas of the brain were impacted.

The amygdala, which is responsible for the response and memory of emotions particularly fear and anxiety, became less active.

And the default mode network, which relates to multiple interconnected regions of the brain, became more stabilised.

After the drug was administered patients reported feeling “rebooted” and showed signed of reduced stress and anxiety. Picture: Peter Dejong/AP

After the drug was administered patients reported feeling “rebooted” and showed signed of reduced stress and anxiety. Picture: Peter Dejong/APSource:Supplied

According to Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, the head of psychedelic research at Imperial, the drug seemed to have a “resetting” effect on the brain.

“Patients were very ready to use this analogy. Without any priming they would say, ‘I’ve been reset, reborn, rebooted’, and one patient said his brain had been defragged and cleaned up,” he told BBC News.

“Psilocybin may be giving these individuals the temporary ‘kick start’ they need to break out of their depressive states and these imaging results do tentatively support a ‘reset’ analogy. Similar brain effects to these have been seen with electroconvulsive therapy.”

It is important to note that this study was conducted in a regulated environment by professionals and the research team warns people that self medicating isn’t guaranteed to return the same results.

Dr Carhart-Harris and his team have conducted similar trials before, administering 12 patients with small doses of psilocybin and recording relief from depression symptoms in eight of the original 12 subjects.

This time around they observed more closely the specific effects that the drug has on the brain.

It is acknowledged in the study that the results may be limited by the small number of subjects involved and the lack of a control group, but it is a promising start to finding a new way to help people who suffer from depression.

In order to expand their understanding on the role that this drug plays in relieving symptoms of depression they are set to start a new trial early next year comparing the effectiveness of psilocybin against a popular antidepressant.

Earth Sweltered to 3rd Hottest August, Summer on Record

Image result for Earth Sweltered to 3rd Hottest August, Summer on Record

By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — Earth just sweated through the third hottest August and summer on record.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Monday the globe last month averaged 61.5 degrees (16.43 Celsius), which was a degree-and-a-half higher than the 20th century average, but behind 2016 and 2015.

The average temperature for June through August was 61.47 degrees (16.41 Celsius).

So far the year to date has edged out 2015 and is the second hottest January through August, averaging 58.88 degrees (14.88 Celsius), behind 2016.

Records go back to 1880.

NOAA climate scientist Jake Crouch says even though records weren’t broken, it’s been warmer than 99 percent of the other months and a sign of long-term climate change.