Discovering the Magic of Aloe Vera

Aloe vera cactus plants

Aloe vera

We are settling into our new home and discovering the wonders of living close to nature. Something which would be lacking in a city, where urban dwellers aiming to lead a greener lifestyle end up paying much more for a product and are often left with quality that’s not up to the mark.

Maybe there is a chance to escape part of this system with the help of the divine cactus, Aloe Vera. You would have heard of Aloe Vera, often used in shampoos, conditioners, moisturizers, medicines, toothpaste and much more.

Recently we tried using the juice of the plant to apply on the skin as a moisturizer. Bhavika being a little skeptical wanted to do a little research before using it, thanks to her we stumbled upon the umpteen reasons to use this divine cactus.

cutting an aloe leaf

Cutting an aloe leaf

The juice acts like a natural moisturizer on the body, when applied on the hair it stops irritation of the scalp, reduces hair fall, and makes the hair soft and shiny. It also has a cooling effect on the body, this were few benefits we discovered after using Aloe Vera.

We now plan on testing if Aloe works as a sun screen as well, Bhavika has really sensitive skin so she is the guinea pig for now. :)

You can get a good quantity of Aloe juice from a big fat leaf, we took a couple of pictures of the steps involved in extracting Aloe juice.

Yellow latex secretion that is an irritant

Yellow latex secretion that is an irritant

Firstly you need to get an Aloe plant, and yes they can grow in pots as well so its easy to have one anywhere. When you cut out a leaf, you notice a yellow latex or sap oozing out of it, this is not suppose to be used as its an irritant.

So you basically hang the leaf or keep it in a tilted position until the oozing stops. Once thats done you can slice off the thorny sides of the leaves.

cutting the thorny aloe side

Cutting the thorny aloe side

Then slice off the flat side of the leaf with a knife, you will see good amount of juice beginning to drip out when you do that. You can then scoop out the inside gel with either a spoon or slice out as much as you can with a knife.

The first time we extracted aloe juice we directly put the gel in a muslin cloth and squeezed it, we collected a good amount of gel and juice. By blending the gel and then using a muslin cloth you get a lot more juice with very little gel remaining.

Thornless Aloe vera leaf

Thornless Aloe vera leaf

We managed to get a little more than 400 ml of the divine cactus juice from 5 medium sized aloe leaves. If you don’t want to extract you can simply cut off a leaf, drain out the yellow sap and apply it directly on your skin.

Extracting aloe vera gel

Extracting aloe vera gel

Aloe has been used for over 500 years

Aloe Vera is known as Ghrit Kumari in Sanskrit and has been used in Ancient Indian Ayurveda. Its use as a healing agent goes back thousands of years, for the Egyptians its the ‘plant of immortality’ and supposedly placed as a burial gift in tombs of the pharaohs. Strange that a plant with so many qualities has not made its way into all our homes a long time ago.

Extracting aloe vera gel

Aloe vera gel

According to Ayurvedic medicine, Aloe Vera has several health benefits –

  • Antibiotic Properties that can be used to treat various skin ailments, sun burns, healing of cuts, wounds and scratches.
  • Analgesic Properties that inhibit pain, thus Aloe Vera gel is used in dental treatments and the treatment of mouth ulcers, sores, blisters etc. Its also used to treat piles, hemorrhoids, indigestion, constipation
  • Growth Stimulating Properties that stimulate the growth and formation of new cells. So it helps in curing burns as aloe penetrates the skin and removes the dead cells caused by infection, and forms new cells.
  • Halts the growth of cancer tumors
  • Heals the intestines and lubricates the digestive tract.
  • Stabilizes blood sugar and reduces triglycerides in diabetics.
  • Alkalizes the body, helping to balance overly acidic dietary habits.
  • Nourishes the body with minerals, vitamins, enzymes and glyconutrients.

You can read more about the benefits of Aloe Vera and its uses in Ayurveda here and here.

Blue Light Found To Improve Brain Function And Focus Better Than Coffee

Swedish researchers have made a fascinating discovery with regard to short wavelength blue light that suggests that it could be used as a natural therapy to help improve cognitive function and boost energy levels. In a test comparing the effects of blue light to caffeine and several other modalities, a team of scientists from Mid Sweden University in Ostersund found that simple exposure to blue light actually outperforms caffeine in helping people to think more clearly, focus on the task at hand and have enough energy to get through the day.

While previous research has shown that exposure to blue light, especially right before bed, can obstruct the natural sleep cycle by interfering with hormone production, this latest study found quite the opposite in terms of how it affects brain and motor function. Not only does exposure to blue light help promote better focus, according to the latest data, even in the presence of distractions, but it also enhances overall psychomotor function and alertness.

To arrive at this conclusion, a group of 21 healthy individuals was instructed to perform a computer-based psychomotor vigilance test both before and after undergoing one of four randomly assigned trial conditions. These conditions included exposure to the following: white light and a placebo, white light and 240 milligrams (mg) of caffeine, blue light and a placebo, or blue light and 240 mg of caffeine. Following the exposures and the test, the research team analyzed the results using the Karolinska Sleepiness Scale.

What they found was that both the caffeine only and the blue light only groups experienced enhanced accuracy when taking a visual reaction test that required making a decision. Not only were the participants in these two groups better equipped to make the decision, but they were also able to make it faster than those in the other two groups. Additionally, the blue light and caffeine groups were found to have improved overall psychomotor function compared to the other groups.

However, the blue light only group outperformed the caffeine group in several other key areas, one being a test of executive function that involved introducing a distraction into the mix. Those in the blue light only group had improved accuracy and consistently outperformed those in the caffeine only group when both congruent and incongruent distractions were put before them. Visual reaction performance was also substantially improved in the blue light only group, and especially among participants with blue eyes.

“Blue light and caffeine demonstrated distinct effects on aspects of psychomotor function and have the potential to positively influence a range of settings where cognitive function and alertness are important,” wrote the authors about their findings, which were recently published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.

Blue light also shown to help treat pain, improve brain function among blind individuals

The study builds on related research involving the use of blue light to improve memory, alertness and reaction time. Doctors at the University Hospital of Heidelberg in Germany, for instance, have already developed a blue light patch that can be used to treat chronic pain. And another study on blue light that was published earlier this year found that it can be used to help stimulate and improve brain activity in blind patients.

“[Blue] light stimulates higher cognitive brain activity, independently of vision, and engages supplemental brain areas to perform an ongoing cognitive process,” wrote the authors of this earlier study, from the University of Montreal in Quebec, Canada. Their study was published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.

Sources for this article include:

http://www.plosone.org

http://www.dailymail.co.uk

http://boston.cbslocal.com

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

Sea Cucumber Found to Kill 95% of Cancer Cells, Shrink Tumors

Sea cucumber has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for hundreds of years, but they are relatively obscure in the U.S. This may be soon changing, however, as evidence mounts that sea cucumber extracts can kill cancer cells while stimulating the immune system.

As reported by Ethan Evers, author of “The Eden Prescription, previous research on sea cucumber has demonstrated its ability to kill lung, breast, prostate, skin, colon, pancreatic, and liver cancer cells. These extracts have also proven effective in killing leukemia and gioblastoma cells. Looks like we can add yet another food to the list of anti-cancer foods.

Scientists believe a key compound known as frondoside A to be responsible. Frondoside A is a triterpenoid, diverse organic compounds found in the essential oils and oleoresins of plants.

This latest study, published in PLoS One, has confirmed just how powerful frondoside A truly is. Researchers found it to kill 95% of ER+ breast cancer cells, 95% of liver cancer cells, 90% of melanoma cells, and 85-88% of three different types of lung cancer.

As Evers reports:

“But the benefits of this compound don’t just stop at directly inducing programmed cell death (apoptosis). It also inhibits angiogenesis (the ability of tumors to grow new blood vessels to get their food) and stops cancer metastasizing by impeding cell migration and invasion. Even more intriguing is the ability of frondoside A to activate our immune system’s natural killer cells to attack cancer cells. This has been shown for breast cancer in particular but may also apply to all cancers, because it involves the immune system and not cancer cells directly. This may partially explain why frondoside A was so effective at shrinking lung tumors in mice that it rivaled chemo drugs in performance.”

When given toSea_cucumber mice with non-small cell lung cancer, frondoside A was found to shrink tumors by 40% in only 10 days. Traditional chemo drugs shrunk the tumors by 47 percent, but the risks of chemo treatment are far greater than any side-effects or risks of sea cucumber. (Namely because there are no known risks associated with sea cucumbers). In addition, the amount of frondoside A needed to achieve such results was miniscule—less than a single milligram for an adult weighing 165 pounds.

While sea cucumber extracts aren’t currently offered as a treatment for cancer—at least not in your traditional doctor’s office—you can find dried and powdered sea cucumber in health stores. It is packaged as a solution to arthritis and similar conditions because of its anti-inflammatory properties.

Sea Cucumber Found to Kill 95% of Cancer Cells, Shrink Tumors

 

 

Additional Sources:

Pubmed/18800890

Pubmed/19162021

Pubmed/21741966

Originally posted on: http://naturalsociety.com/sea-cucumber-shrinks-cancer-cells-95-percent/#ixzz2ljvmN5GC

Suppressed Vitamin Therapy Cures Depression

For over 60 years, the conventional psychiatric industry has systematically ignored the mental health benefits of niacin (vitamin B3) – as a natural way – to treat depression plus many other psychiatric disorders. This ‘mega-vitamin therapy’ eliminates the need for toxic anti-anxiety medications. In fact, along with antioxidants like, vitamin C, E beta-carotene and selenium, niacin provides the ultimate protection against disease-causing free radicals.

Depression is not caused by a pharmaceutical drug deficiency. In truth, we already know that vitamin B3 therapy is a simple, safe, and highly-effective way of improving your mental (and physical) health without the need for toxic chemicals. Learn more about this amazing therapy on the next NaturalNews Talk Hour.

Vitamin B3 therapy cures alcoholism, anxiety, tension and, even, schizophreniaBack in 1960, ‘Bill W.’, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, (Bill Wilson) met Abram Hofer, M.D., Ph.D. – who introduced Bill to the amazing healing potential of mega vitamin therapy. Dr. Hofer had lots of success treating schizophrenic patients – who also suffered from alcohol addiction and depression. Naturally, Bill W. was very curious – to say the least – and started to take 3,000 mg. of vitamin B3 per day.

After a few weeks, the fatigue and depression that plagued Bill W., for years, was gone. To make a long story short, Bill W. gave 30 of his close friends in Alcoholics Anonymous the same therapy and, within 6 months, he was convinced vitamin B3 would be very helpful for alcoholics. Unfortunately, as I’m sure you could guess by now, many of his appointed ‘medical experts’ did not like his excitement over a vitamin therapy to treat health problems and, to this date, vitamin B3 therapy remains a ‘secret’ to millions of needy individuals.

If you or someone you know is suffering from anxiety, depression or any other chronic stress-related health issue – don’t miss the next NaturalNews Talk Hour with Jonathan Landsman and Andrew Saul, Ph.D. – an expert in vitamin B3 therapy and natural healthcare pioneer.

Visit: http://www.naturalhealth365.com and enter your email address for show details + FREE gifts!

3 warning signs of a vitamin B3 deficiency

If you suffer from high cholesterol – you probably have a vitamin B3 deficiency. After all, vitamin B3 is responsible for maintaining a healthy level of cholesterol in the body. And, remember, if your cholesterol gets too high and your blood gets ‘sticky’ – lots of health problems are created like, fatigue, depression, clogged arteries, heart attacks and death.

Skin lesions, throughout the body, are a clear indication of a vitamin B3 deficiency. Obviously, along with an improved diet of fresh, unprocessed foods loaded with organic fruits and vegetables – vitamin B3 supplementation will dramatically improve the health of your skin.

Diarrhea, mental confusion and insomnia are virtually eliminated by consuming sufficient amounts of vitamin B3 – along with many other antioxidant-rich foods and a reduction in stressful living habits.

This week’s guest: Andrew Saul, Ph.D., natural healthcare pioneer and nutritional therapy expert

Learn how to eliminate depression, anxiety and stress-related diseases naturally – Sun. Nov. 3

Andrew W. Saul, Ph.D. taught nutrition, addiction recovery, health science, and cell biology for a total of nine years for the State University of New York, and clinical nutrition for New York Chiropractic College. Since 2005, Dr. Saul has served as Editor-In-Chief of the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service for over 140 issues.

In 2006, Psychology Today named Dr. Saul as one of seven natural health pioneers. He has won the Citizens for Health Outstanding Health Freedom Activist Award, is an Honorary Director of the Gerson Institute, and is featured in the documentary Dying to Have Known: The Evidence Behind Natural Healing and the very popular FoodMatters movie. The author or co-author of many books – his expertise on the topic of nutritional therapies for disease are second to none.

Stop depression, heart disease plus much more! On the next NaturalNews Talk Hour, Jonathan Landsman and Andrew Saul, Ph.D. talk about how to naturally reduce emotional (and oxidative) stress – naturally with mega-vitamin B3 nutritional protocols. Don’t miss our life-saving program – Sunday, Nov. 3rd.

The Peterborough Tunnels

A weird old story I came across in my bookmarks this morning tells a tale of tunnels under the town of Peterborough, England.

image

The local newspaper, Peterborough Today, refers to a woman described simply as “a grandmother” who claims “that she crawled through a tunnel under Peterborough Cathedral as a schoolgirl.” That experience—organized as a school trip, of all things—was “terrifying”; in fact, it was “so scary that it gave her nightmares for weeks afterwards.”
About 25 of us went down into the tunnel, one at a time; none of the teachers came in. It was pitch black, had a stone floor and was about two feet high and three feet wide. We crawled along on our hands on knees. The girl in front of me stopped and started screaming, she was so scared. The tunnel started in the Cathedral and ended there too; we were down there for what seemed like ages. When I eventually got home I was in tears. Afterwards I had horrible nightmares for weeks about being buried alive underneath the Cathedral.
What’s fascinating about the story, though, is the fact that not everyone even agrees that these tunnels exist. A “city historian” quoted in the same article says that, while “there are small tunnels under the Cathedral,” they are most likely not tunnels at all, but simply “the ruins of foundations from earlier churches on the site, dating from Saxon times.” The girls would thus have been crawling around amongst the foundations of ruined churches, lost buildings that long predated the cathedral above them.

imageBut local legends insist that the tunnels—or, perhaps, just one very large tunnel—might, in fact, be real. To this end, an amateur archaeologist named Jay Beecher, who works in a local bank by day, has “been intrigued by the legend of the tunnel ever since he was a young boy when he was regaled with tales that had been passed down the generations of a mysterious passageway under the city.” This “mysterious passageway under the city” would be nearly 800 years old, by his reckoning, and more than a mile in length. “Medieval monks may have used the tunnel as a safe route to visit a sacred spring at Holywell to bathe in its healing waters,” we read.

Although Beecher has found indications of the tunnel on city maps, not everyone is convinced, claiming the whole thing is just “folklore.” But it is oddly ubiquitous folklore. One former resident of town who contacted the newspaper “claimed that a series of tunnels ran between Peterborough and Thorney via a secret underground chapel.” Another “said that he recalled seeing part of a tunnel in the cellar at a home in Norfolk Street, Peterborough,” as if the tunnel flashes in and out of existence around town, from basement to basement, church cellar to pub storage room, more a portal or instance gate than an actual part of the built environment. And then, of course, there is the surreal childhood memory—or nightmare—recounted by the “grandmother” quoted above who once crawled beneath the town church with 25 of her schoolmates, worried that they’d all be buried alive in the center of town (surely the narrative premise of a childhood anxiety dream if there ever was one).

No word yet if Beecher has found his archaeological evidence, but the fact that this particular spatial feature makes an appearance in the dreams, memories, or confused geographic fantasies of the people who live there—as if their town can only be complete given this subterranean underside, a buried twin lost beneath churches—is in and of itself remarkable.

(If this interests you—or even if it doesn’t—take a quick look at BLDGBLOG’s tour through the tunnels and sand mines of Nottingham, or stop by this older post on the “undiscovered bedrooms of Manhattan”).

Source: Blogspot

Image credit: Geocaching

 

Aside

Cicada 3301 – One Of The Internet’s Most Enduring (and most mysterious) Puzzles

cicada3301_smallFor the last two years world’s best code-breakers have attempted to unravel one of the greatest internet mysteries known as Cicada 3301.

Who is behind the code name? Is it a mysterious secret society or perhaps a think tank that recruits its members via complex Internet puzzles?

In January last year, Joel Eriksson, a 34-year-old computer analyst from Uppsala in Sweden was checking the web looking for something he could read or investigate.

What he came across was beyond his imagination. On an internet forum he discovered a strange that seemed highly unusual. The message was in stark white type, against a black background.

“Hello,” it said. “We are looking for highly intelligent individuals. To find them, we have devised a test. There is a message hidden in this image. Find it, and it will lead you on the road to finding us. We look forward to meeting the few that will make it all the way through. Good luck.”

The message was signed: “3301″.

Eriksson, a self-confessed IT security “freak” and a skilled cryptographer became very interested.

He was aware of that this was an example of digital steganography: the concealment of secret information within a digital file.

Most often seen in conjunction with image files, a recipient who can work out the code – for example, to alter the colour of every 100th pixel – can retrieve an entirely different image from the randomised background “noise”. In an fascinating article published on The Sunday Telegraph Eriksson tells he was very sleepy and he was going to work next morning, yet he made an attempt to decipher the secret message.

“After only a few minutes work he’d got somewhere: a reference to “Tiberius Claudius Caesar” and a line of meaningless letters.

Joel deduced it might be an embedded “Caesar cipher” – an encryption technique named after Julius Caesar, who used it in private correspondence.

It replaces characters by a letter a certain number of positions down the alphabet

As Claudius was the fourth emperor, it suggested “four” might be important – and lo, within minutes, Eriksson found another web address buried in the image’s code.

Feeling satisfied, he clicked the link.

It was a picture of a duck with the message: “Woops! Just decoys this way. Looks like you can’t guess how to get the message out.”

Image“If something is too easy or too routine, I quickly lose interest,” says Eriksson. “But it seemed like the challenge was a bit harder than a Caesar cipher after all. I was hooked.”

Eriksson didn’t realise it then, but he was embarking on one of the internet’s most enduring puzzles; a scavenger hunt that has led thousands of competitors across the web, down telephone lines, out to several physical locations around the globe, and into unchartered areas of the “darknet”. So far, the hunt has required a knowledge of number theory, philosophy and classical music. An interest in both cyberpunk literature and the Victorian occult has also come in handy as has an understanding of Mayan numerology.

It has also featured a poem, a tuneless guitar ditty, a femme fatale called “Wind” who may, or may not, exist in real life, and a clue on a lamp post in Hawaii. Only one thing is certain: as it stands, no one is entirely sure what the challenge – known as Cicada 3301 – is all about or who is behind it. Depending on who you listen to, it’s either a mysterious secret society, a statement by a new political think tank, or an arcane recruitment drive by some quasi-military body.

Which means, of course, everyone thinks it’s the CIA.

ImageWho is behind Cidada 3301?

For some, it’s just a fun game, like a more complicated Sudoku; for others, it has become an obsession. Almost two years on, Eriksson is still trying to work out what it means for him. “It is, ultimately, a battle of the brains,” he says. “And I have always had a hard time resisting a challenge.”

On the night of January 5 2012, after reading the “decoy” message from the duck, Eriksson began to tinker with other variables. Taking the duck’s mockery as a literal clue, Eriksson decided to run it through a decryption program called OutGuess. Success: another hidden message, this time linking to another messageboard on the massively popular news forum Reddit. Here, encrypted lines from a book were being posted every few hours. But there were also strange symbols comprising of several lines and dots – Mayan numbers, Eriksson realised. And duly translated, they led to another cipher.

Up until now, Eriksson would admit, none of the puzzles had really required any advanced skills, or suggested anything other than a single anonymous riddle-poser having some fun. “But then it all changed,” says Eriksson. “And things started getting interesting.”

Suddenly, the encryption techniques jumped up a gear. And the puzzles themselves mutated in several different directions: hexadecimal characters, reverse-engineering, prime numbers. Pictures of the cicada insect – reminiscent of the moth imagery in Thomas Harris’s The Silence of the Lambs – became a common motif.

“I knew cicadas only emerge every prime number of years – 13, or 17 – to avoid synchronising with the life cycles of their predators,” says Eriksson.

“It was all starting to fit together.” The references became more arcane too. The book, for example, turned out to be The Lady of the Fountain, a poem about King Arthur taken from The Mabinogion, a collection of pre-Christian medieval Welsh manuscripts.

Later, the puzzle would lead him to the cyberpunk writer William Gibson – specifically his 1992 poem “Agrippa” (a book of the dead), infamous for the fact that it was only published on a 3.5in floppy disk, and was programmed to erase itself after being read once. But as word spread across the web, thousands of amateur codebreakers joined the hunt for clues. Armies of users of 4chan, the anarchic internet forum where the first Cicada message is thought to have appeared, pooled their collective intelligence – and endless free time – to crack the puzzles.

Within hours they’d decoded The Lady of the Fountain. The new message, however, was another surprise: “Call us,” it read, “at telephone number 214-390-9608″. By this point, only a few days after the original image was posted, Eriksson had taken time off work to join the pursuit full time.

“This was definitely an unexpected turn,” he recalls. “And the first hint that this might not just be the work of a random internet troll.”

Although now disconnected, the phone line was based in Texas, and led to an answering machine. There, a robotic voice told them to find the prime numbers in the original image. By multiplying them together, the solvers found a new prime and a new website: 845145127.com. A countdown clock and a huge picture of a cicada confirmed they were on the right path.

“It was thrilling, breathtaking by now,” says Eriksson. “This shared feeling of discovery was immense. But the plot was about to thicken even more.” Once the countdown reached zero, at 5pm GMT on January 9, it showed 14 GPS coordinates around the world: locations in Warsaw, Paris, Seattle, Seoul, Arizona, California, New Orleans, Miami, Hawaii and Sydney. Sat in Sweden, Eriksson waited as, around the globe, amateur solvers left their apartments to investigate. And, one by one reported what they’d found: a poster, attached to a lamp post, bearing the cicada image and a QR code (the black-and-white bar code often seen on adverts these days and designed to take you to a website via your smartphone).

“It was exhilarating,” said Eriksson. “I was suddenly aware of how much effort they must have been putting into creating this kind of challenge.” For the growing Cicada community, it was explosive – proof this wasn’t merely some clever neckbeard in a basement winding people up, but actually a global organisation of talented people. But who?

Speculation had been rife since the image first appeared. Some thought Cicada might merely be a PR stunt; a particularly labyrinthine Alternate Reality Game (ARG) built by a corporation to ultimately – and disappointingly – promote a new movie or car.

But there were complicating factors to Cicada. For one, the organisers were actively working against the participants. One “solver”, a female known only as Wind from Michigan, contributed to the quest on several messageboards before the community spotted she was deliberately disseminating false clues. Other interference was more pointed. One long, cautionary diatribe, left anonymously on the website Pastebin, claimed to be from an ex-Cicada member – a non-English military officer recruited to the organisation “by a superior”. Cicada, he said, “was a Left-Hand Path religion disguised as a progressive scientific organisation” – comprising of “military officers, diplomats, and academics who were dissatisfied with the direction of the world”. Their plan, the writer claimed, was to transform humanity into the Nietzschen Ubermensch.

“This is a dangerous organisation,” he concluded, “their ways are nefarious”. With no other clues, it was also asssumed by many to be a recruitment drive by the CIA, MI6 or America’s National Security Agency (NSA), as part of a search for highly talented cryptologists.

It wouldn’t have been the first time such tactics had been used.

Back in 2010, for example, Air Force Cyber Command – the United States’ hacking defence force, based at Fort Meade in Maryland – secretly embedded a complex hexadecimal code in their new logo. Cybercom head Lt Gen Keith Alexander then challenged the world’s amateur analysts to crack it (it took them three hours). And in September this year, GCHQ launched the “Can You Find It?” initiative – a series of cryptic codes designed to root out the best British cryptographers. As GCHQ’s head of resourcing Jane Jones said at the time, “It’s a puzzle but it’s also a serious test – the jobs on offer here are vital to protecting national security.”

Dr Jim Gillogly, former president of the American Cryptogram Association, has been cracking similar codes for years and says it’s a tried and tested recruitment tactic.

“During the Second World War, the top-secret Government Code and Cypher School used crossword puzzles printed in The Daily Telegraph to identify good candidates for Bletchley Park,” he says. “But I’m not sure the CIA or NSA is behind Cicada. Both are careful with security, the recent Snowden case notwithstanding. And starting the puzzle on [the anarchic internet forum] 4chan might attract people with less respect for authority than they would want working inside.”

But that doesn’t rule out other organisations. “Computer and data security is more important than ever today,” says Dr Gillogly. The proliferation of wireless devices, mobile telephones, e-commerce websites like Amazon and chip-and-pin machines, means the demand for cryptologists has never been higher.

“One of the more important components of security systems is the efficacy of the cryptography being used,” says Dr Gillogly. “Which means cryptanalysts are in higher demand than ever before – no longer just with the intelligence services. It could just as easily be a bank or software company [behind Cicada].”

Eriksson himself agrees. As a regular speaker at Black Hat Briefings – the secretive computer security conferences where government agencies and corporations get advice from hackers – he knows certain organisations occasionally go “fishing” for new recruits like this. But to him the signs point to a recruitment drive by a hacker group like Anonymous.

“I can’t help but notice,” he says, “that the locations in question are all places with some of the most talented hackers and IT security researchers in the world.” Either way, their identity would prove irrelevant. When the QR codes left on the lamp posts were decoded, a hidden message pointed the solvers towards a TOR address. TOR, short for The Onion Router, is an obscure routing network that allows anonymous access to the “darknet” – the vast, murky portion of the internet that cannot be indexed by standard search engines. Estimated to be 5000 times larger that the “surface” web, it’s in these recesses where you’ll find human-trafficking rings, black market drug markets and terrorist networks. And it’s here where the Cicada path ended.

After a designated number of solvers visited the address, the website shut down with a terse message: “We want the best, not the followers.” The chosen few received personal emails – detailing what, none have said, although one solver heard they were now being asked to solve puzzles in private. Eriksson, however, was not among them. “It was my biggest anticlimax – when I was too late to register my email at the TOR hidden service,” he says. “If my sleep-wake cycle had been different, I believe I would have been among the first.” Regardless, a few weeks later, a new message from Cicada was posted on Reddit. It read: “Hello. We have now found the individuals we sought. Thus our month-long journey ends. For now.” All too abruptly for thousands of intrigued solvers, it had gone quiet.

Except no. On January 4 this year, something new. A fresh image, with a new message in the same white text: “Hello again. Our search for intelligent individuals now continues.” Analysis of the image would reveal another poem – this time from the book Liber Al Vel Legis, a religious doctrine by the English occultist and magician Aleister Crowley. From there, the solvers downloaded a 130 megabyte file containing thousands of prime numbers. And also an MP3 file: a song called The Instar Emergence by the artist 3301, which begins with the sound of – guess what – cicadas.

Analysis of that has since lead to a Twitter account pumping out random numbers, which in turn produced a “gematria”: an ancient Hebrew code table, but this time based on Anglo-Saxon runes. This pointed the solvers back into the darknet, where they found seven new physical locations, from Dallas to Moscow to Okinawa, and more clues. But that’s where, once again, the trail has gone cold. Another select group of “first solvers” have been accepted into a new “private” puzzle – this time, say reports, a kind of Myers-Briggs multiple-choice personality test.

But still, we are no closer to knowing the source, or fundamental purpose, of Cicada 3301. “That’s the beauty of it though,” says Eriksson. “It is impossible to know for sure until you have solved it all.” That is why for him, and thousands of other hooked enthusiasts, January 4 2014 is so important: that’s when the next set of riddles is due to begin again. “Maybe all will be revealed then,” he grins. “But somehow, I doubt it.”

Maybe the mystery of Cicada 3301 will never be solved.

Read full article: MessageToEagle.com

Cicada 3301 – One Of The Internet’s Most Enduring (and most mysterious) Puzzles

Can I See ISON On November 28? What’s Up On The Sky In December?

— Don’t look for ISON during the day on Nov. 28. NASA spacecraft will watch it and we’ll post photos here. As always, never look directly at the sun.
— If it doesn’t break up, ISON will be visible near the horizon in early December. Look to the East before sunrise and to the Northwest after sunset.

Enjoy the December sky!

Source: NASA

Image credit: Dakotalapse

A Timeline Of Comet ISON’s Dangerous Journey

Source: NASA

Comet ISON, which will round the sun on Nov. 28, 2013, at a distance of just 730,000 miles from the sun, is what’s known as a sungrazing comet, due to its close approach. Image Credit: 
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
A comet’s journey through the solar system is perilous and violent. A giant ejection of solar material from the sun could rip its tail off. Before it reaches Mars — at some 230 million miles away from the sun — the radiation of the sun begins to boil its water, the first step toward breaking apart. And, if it survives all this, the intense radiation and pressure as it flies near the surface of the sun could destroy it altogether.

ImagePredicted hour-by-hour position of Comet ISON in various instruments on one of NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory spacecraft between 1 a.m. EST on Nov. 26, 2013, and 7 p.m. EST on Nov. 29, 2013. The blue field of view is from the outer coronagraph and green from the inner coronagraph. Image Credit:  NASA/STEREO/Goddard Space Flight Center

Right now, Comet ISON is making that journey. It began its trip from the Oort cloud region of our solar system and is now travelling toward the sun. The comet will reach its closest approach to the sun on Thanksgiving Day — Nov. 28, 2013 — skimming just 730,000 miles above the sun’s surface. If it comes around the sun without breaking up, the comet will be visible in the Northern Hemisphere with the naked eye, and from what we see now, ISON is predicted to be a particularly bright and beautiful comet. Cataloged as C/2012 S1, Comet ISON was first spotted 585 million miles away in September 2012. This is its very first trip around the sun, which means it is still made of pristine matter from the earliest days of the solar system’s formation, its top layers never having been lost by a trip near the sun. Scientists will point as many ground-based observatories as they can and at least 15 space-based assets towards the comet along the way, in order to learn more about this time capsule from when the solar system first formed. Even if the comet does not survive, tracking its journey will help scientists understand what the comet is made of, how it reacts to its environment, and what this explains about the origins of the solar system. Closer to the sun, watching how the comet and its tail interact with the vast solar atmosphere can teach scientists more about the sun itself.ImageHubble’s view of Comet ISON (C/2012 S1) on April 10, 2013. This image was taken in visible light. The blue false color was added to bring out details in the comet structure. Image Credit:  NASA, ESA, J.-Y. Li (Planetary Science Institute)

NASA has initiated a Comet ISON Observing Campaign to facilitate a massive global observation campaign incorporating both space-based and ground-based telescopes and encouraging citizen scientists and both professional and amateur astronomers to participate. Read on for a timeline of observations expected of Comet ISON on its perilous journey.

Date Comet ISON Journey
At least a million years ago The comet began its journey from the Oort cloud, a swath of icy objects that orbit far beyond Neptune. This is Comet ISON’s first trip through the inner solar system.
September 2012 Comet ISON was first discovered by Russian astronomers, Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok, using the International Scientific Optical Network in Kislovodsk, Russia.
Jan. 17–18, 2013 NASA’s Deep Impact acquired images of Comet ISON. The observations were unable to detect whether carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide was present.
January-March 2013 For two months, NASA’s Swift mission observed ISON when it was around 460 million miles away from the sun. (http://1.usa.gov/13E3yg0) Observations showed that ISON was shedding about 112,000 pounds of dust and 130 pounds of water every minute. The lower amount of water represents the fact that the comet was too far away from the sun for its water ice to have begun evaporating. Instead, other materials such as carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide ice were boiling off.
April-May 2013 NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope observed Comet ISON at 386 million miles away from the sun on April 10, 2013. (http://1.usa.gov/ZGGitt) Preliminary Hubble observations provided surprising results: The nucleus of the comet appeared to be no larger than 3 to 4 miles across. Since the comet was so bright and so active, scientists had assumed the nucleus was larger. Hubble found the dusty coma, or head of the comet, to be around 3,100 miles across and the tail to be more than 57,000 miles long. HST also observed the comet on May 2 and May 7, and produced an upper limit on how fast the comet was producing carbon monoxide. Hubble also released a movie of the comet from May 8, 2013: http://1.usa.gov/17RuUS1
June 13, 2013 NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope observed Comet ISON at 310 million miles away from the Sun. The data are still being processed and no results have been announced yet.
July-August 2013 Sometime in late July or early August, the comet will pass what’s called the frost line, some 230 to 280 million miles away from the sun, when it will feel enough radiation from the sun that water will begin to evaporate and the comet will appear brighter. Some comets have broken up upon crossing the frost line.
August-November 2013 Beginning in August, astronomers will be able to observe the comet through ground-based telescopes once again. From early June through late-August, ISON was almost directly behind the sun as viewed from Earth, and thus could not be observed from the ground.
September 2013 In September, the comet will be visible near dawn in the Southern Hemisphere with binoculars.
Sept. 17-Oct. 15, 2013   Launch window for the Balloon Rapid Response for ISON, or BRRISON. This balloon, which with its payload will be 671 feet tall, taller than the Washington Monument, will launch from NASA’s Scientific Balloon Flight Facility in Fort Sumner, N.M. for a single day, carrying a 2.6-foot telescope and other science equipment. It will soar up to 23 miles above Earth’s surface, where it can observe the comet largely unhindered by Earth’s atmosphere. BRRISON will observe ISON in the near-infrared, near-ultraviolet and visible wavelength ranges, and will measure the ratio of carbon dioxide to water emissions from the comet. This ratio will be a vital diagnostic of the comet’s origins. These emissions are blocked by Earth’s atmosphere and cannot be measured from the ground. BRRISON is an unprecedented quick-reaction project to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the discovery of comet ISON, and is the first NASA Planetary Science Division balloon mission to observe a comet.
October 2013 Mars Curiosity and Opportunity will have a view of ISON in October, with Oct. 1, 2013, being the comet’s closest approach to Mars. Comet ISON will be close enough to the sun, as of Oct. 10 that it will be visible by an instrument with an extremely wide view on one of the solar observatories: the HI 2 instrument on one of NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatories, STEREO-A. At that point the comet will be around 94.5 million miles away from the sun. Additional Hubble observations are planned to provide new estimates on nucleus size and composition as well as to search for any fragments that have broken off.
November 2013 Observations of Comet ISON with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory will be used to study particles streaming away from the sun in the solar wind. These particles from the sun interact with Comet ISON to generate X-rays that are detected by Chandra. The first of two sets of observations is planned for early November, when Comet ISON will be passing through the hot wind produced by regions along the sun’s equator.
Nov. 16-19 & 21-26, 2013 Comet ISON will be visible to MESSENGER, which is near Mercury. The closest approach will be on Nov. 19. Once the comet passes Mercury, it will be on the most perilous part of its journey. The intense radiation of the  sun causes material to evaporate quickly off the comet. Moreover the very pressure of the solar particles on the comet can cause it to break up. A slew of space and ground-based telescopes will watch the comet as it makes its slingshot around the sun.
Nov. 18-24, 2013 Launch window for NASA’s FORTIS (short for Far-ultraviolet Off Rowland-Circle for Imaging and Spectroscopy) sounding rocket, which will measure ultraviolet light from Comet ISON as it nears the sun. Such light can help scientists determine the production rate of volatile chemicals leaving the comet surface and also can be used to search for previously undetected types of atoms or molecules on the comet.
Nov. 21-30, 2013 As of Nov. 21, Comet ISON will begin to enter the fields of view of NASA’s space-based solar observatories. Comet ISON will be viewed first in what’s called coronagraphs, images that block the brighter view of the sun itself in order to focus on the solar atmosphere, the corona. Such images – from STEREO and the joint European Space Agency/NASA Solar Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO — will likely be quite visually compelling. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, will view the comet for a few hours around perihelion. SDO’s imagery should be detailed enough to gather information about how the comet evolves through the radiation and pressure of the sun’s atmosphere. All of these observatories will have different views. STEREO-A will be the only one that sees the comet transit across the face of the sun. In SDO’s view, the comet will appear to travel above the sun. The exact dates of view for these observatories is as follows:

  • Nov 21–28:     STEREO-A HI1 sees comet
  • Nov 26-29:       STEREO-B coronagraphs sees comet
  • Nov 27-30:    SOHO sees comet in coronagraphs
  • Nov 28-29:     STEREO-A coronagraphs sees comet
  • Nov 28:         SDO sees comet (for a few hours)

In addition, ground-based solar telescopes – observing in optical, infrared and radio wavelengths – will all be able to observe the comet during perihelion. Such observations will provide additional information about the composition of the comet and how material evaporates off it, fueling the dusty cloud that surrounds the nucleus. One last solar effect could impact the comet at this stage in its journey. If the sun coincidentally sends out a giant cloud of solar particles, known as a coronal mass ejection, at the right time and direction to pass the comet, it could pull the comet’s tail right off.

December 2013 – January 2014 If Comet ISON survives its trip around the sun, there’s a good chance that it will be incredibly bright and easily visible with the naked eye in the Northern Hemisphere. In early December, it will be seen in the morning, low on the horizon to the east-southeast. In late December and early January, it will be visible all night long. A second set of Chandra observations is planned for the middle of December to early January, when ISON will be passing through a transition region in the solar wind, where the hot wind from the Sun’s sun’s equator is mixed with a cooler wind produced by regions near the poles of the sun.
December 26, 2013 Closest approach to Earth will be approximately 40 million miles.

Comet ISON vs. the Solar Storm

Nov. 24, 2013:  In 2007, astronomers were amazed when a solar storm hit Comet Encke.  NASA STEREO spacecraft watched as a CME (coronal mass ejection) struck the comet head on and ripped off its tail.

The same thing could be in store for Comet ISON–only worse.

On Nov. 28th, Comet ISON will pass through the sun’s atmosphere, flying little more than a million kilometers above the sun’s surface. It will be ~30 times closer to the sun than Encke was in 2007 and more likely to encounter a ferocious solar storm.

“For one thing,” says Angelos Vourlidas of the Naval Research Lab and a participant in NASA’s Comet ISON Observing Campaign (CIOC), “the year 2007 was near solar minimum. Solar activity was low. Now, however, we are near the peak of the solar cycle and eruptions are more frequent.”

“I would absolutely love to see Comet ISON get hit by a big CME,” says Karl Battams, an astronomer at the Naval Research Lab who also works with the CIOC. “It won’t hurt the comet, but it would give us a chance to study extreme interactions with the comet’s tail.”

CMEs are magnetized clouds of plasma hurled into space by the explosions of sunspots.  The gas inside a CME is not very dense, so its impact would not shatter a comet’s core. The fragile tail is another matter. Comet tails are as gossamer as the CMEs themselves, so the interactions can be intense and unpredictable.

Image“The CME that ran over Comet Encke back in 2007 was slow, barely creating a pressure pulse by compressing the solar wind ahead of it,” notes Vourlidas. “It was this compression which caused the Encke’s tail to fly off.”

He believes that Comet ISON would experience something more dramatic. “Any CME that hits Comet ISON close to the sun would very likely be faster, driving a shock wave with a much stronger magnetic field.  Frankly, we can’t predict what would happen.”

Comet ISON entered the field of view of STEREO-A’s Heliospheric Imager on Nov. 21st.  Coincidentally, Comet Encke is there, too. Presently, the two comets are being gently buffeted by solar wind and their tails are wagging back and forth accordingly.

ImageThe Heliospheric Imager on NASA’s STEREO-A spacecraft is tracking Comet ISON as it plunges toward the sun. In this movie, which spans a two day period from Nov. 20 to Nov. 22, 2013, the sun is off-screen to the right. Coincidentally, Comet Encke is present too. Movie, Commentary

If the sun erupts, both comets could be engulfed by the same CME.  This would turn the two comets into solar probes.  Like wind socks, they would sample the storm from two widely separated locations, giving researchers a rare 3D view of a CME’s inner structure.

Comet ISON will be passing over the sun’s equator on Nov. 28th on the same side of the sun where a group of active sunspots was recently clustered.  In other words, says Battams, “we’re going to be in the ‘hot zone’ for CMEs.”

NASA’s entire fleet of solar observatories will be watching when ISON takes the plunge.  This includes STEREO-A and STEREO-B, the Solar Dynamics Observatory, and the Solar and Heliophysics Observatory (SOHO), which NASA operates along with the European Space Agency. If a CME strikes the comet, all of the spacecraft are likely to see what happens.

“It would be pretty new territory for us,” says Battams.

“…and a nice preview of what NASA’s Solar Probe+ spacecraft might experience when it plunges into the sun in the 2020s,” adds Vourlidas.

Stay tuned!

Source: NASA

Credits:

Author: Dr. Tony PhillipsProduction editor: Dr. Tony Phillips | Credit: Science@NASA