Scientific Discovery

The science of the extraterrestrial and paranormal

New research reveals the effects of space travel on the heart, what scientists are doing to prevent a real-life Armageddon — and the source of phantom visions

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<strong>The Elsevier Research Selection for Journalists:</strong> If you are a credentialed journalist writing about science and would like to receive the Elsevier Research Selection, email the <a href="mailto:newsroom@elsevier.com">Elsevier Newsroom</a>.For this special issue of the Elsevier Research Selection, Out of this World, the Elsevier Newsroom is featuring research studies on everything from space missions to phantom visions.

The Elsevier Research Selection (ERS) is an email spotlighting interesting, topical research articles for health and science journalists. The research included is peer reviewed, has not been press-released or covered in the media, and is not embargoed. 

Articles are available to credentialed journalists through free access to ScienceDirect, the world's largest repository of full-text scientific information.

In addition, Elsevier has made these articles freely available to the public for three months, until July 21, 2015.

Out-of-this-world weather could knock out the Earth’s tech systems

Understanding space weather to shield society: A global road map for 2015–2025 commissioned by COSPAR and ILWS

Advances in Space Research | doi:10.1016/j.asr.2015.03.023

The environmental conditions in space, or "space weather," impact the earth’s technological infrastructure —something the world’s economies rely on. Researchers have therefore set out recommendations in Advances in Space Research for an international 10-year plan to better shield society against space weather by improving forecasts, environmental specifications, and infrastructure design. This would require improving observatories by developing affordable new instrumentation and exploring alternative techniques, and through partnerships between scientific and industry sectors. Improved data sharing and increased education would be beneficial. An international, inter-agency assessment of the state of the field to evolve priorities subject to scientific, technological and user-base developments to guide international coordination would also be required.

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What scientists are doing to prevent a real-life Armageddon

Activities in Europe related to the mitigation of the threat from near-Earth objects

Advances in Space Research | doi:10.1016/j.asr.2015.03.027

The blockbuster films of the late 1990s struck fear at the thought of asteroids colliding with Earth, but how real is this threat? Scientists at the European Space Agency (ESA) were tasked in 2008 with building a Space Situational Awareness system, in order to better monitor the hazards in orbit of our planet. A paper published in Advances in Space Research charts the work on the near-Earth object (NEO) segment, which as of October 2014 had identified 450 items that now appear on its "risk list." Tools are still needed to better determine the threat and damage potential of these NEOs, but Europe has taken huge strides towards playing a crucial role in mitigating any possible NEO impact threat.

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An antidote to dumping in space

The re-entry to Earth as a valuable option at the end-of-life of Libration Point Orbit missions

Advances in Space Research | doi:10.1016/j.asr.2015.03.012

Space mission designs must include end-of-life disposal solutions to preserve the space environment, and for the sustainability of the project as a whole. A study published in Advances in Space Research presents the Earth's re-entry as a feasible disposal strategy also for Libration Point Orbit missions also for Libration Point Orbit missions, like SOHO and Gaia, which orbit the Sun at a distance of about 1.5 million km with respect to the Earth. The main advantage of this decommissioning option is that it completely removes the danger of a collision in space. The researcher shows that Earth re-entry can be considered a no-cost option, or at the least a non-expensive transfer option, and that the point concerned by the re-entry on the surface of the Earth can be defined with a high level of accuracy.

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Astronauts’ hearts skip to a different beat in Space

Alterations in heart rate and activity rhythms of three orbital astronauts on a space mission

Life Sciences in Space Research | doi:10.1016/j.lssr.2015.01.001

Space flight takes its toll on humans, both physically and mentally. Research published in Life Sciences in Space Research has now analysed the effects on heart physiology and function; revealing that the astronauts examined all experienced a significant decrease in heart rate during flight and a significantly dampened heart rate amplitude.

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The truth is out there: emotions underlie belief in the paranormal

The emotional roots of conspiratorial perceptions, system justification, and belief in the paranormal

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology | doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2014.09.002

We are all predisposed to certain emotions – be it happiness, worry, anger etc. But do the emotions we feel affect the way we view the world? A new study, published in Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, looked at the impact of uncertain emotions (e.g. worry, surprise, fear, hope) and certain emotions (e.g. anger, happiness, disgust, contentment) on our belief systems. Researchers found that experiencing uncertain emotions increased ones belief in conspiracies and paranormal activities. So if you’re prone to bouts of worrying, it might be advisable to steer clear of the x-Files box set.

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Why seeing isn’t believing – the curious case of phantom vision

Phantom perception: voluntary and involuntary nonretinal vision

Trends in Cognitive Science | doi:10.1016/j.tics.2015.03.004

One commonly held notion is that the way we see the world is much like a high-definition digital camera: what we see is a simple, accurate replication of the outside world. However, years of research have taught us that this intuitive idea is far from the truth. Now in a new review article from Trends in Cognitive Science, researchers explore the underlying mechanisms of "phantom visions," such as hallucinations, mental imagery, synaesthesia and perceptual filling-in, highlighting the commonalities and differences between voluntary and involuntary phantom visions.

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Elsevier Connect Contributor

Sacha BoucherieSacha Boucherie works closely with Elsevier's journal publishers, editors and authors at one end and with science journalists and reporters at the other end with the aim of spotlighting and promoting interesting, topical research articles. She is based in Elsevier's Amsterdam headquarters and holds a master's degree in social psychology at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.

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