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Physics Students Devise Concept For Star Wars-Style Deflector Shields

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the stay-on-target dept.

Star Wars Prequels 179

mpicpp (3454017) writes in with good news for everyone worrying about the strength of their shields. "If you have often imagined yourself piloting your X-Wing fighter on an attack run on the Death Star, you'll be reassured that University of Leicester students have demonstrated that your shields could take whatever the Imperial fleet can throw at you. The only drawback is that you won't be able to see a thing outside of your starfighter. In anticipation of Star Wars Day on 4 May, three fourth-year Physics students at the University have proven that shields, such as those seen protecting spaceships in the Star Wars film series, would not only be scientifically feasible, they have also shown that the science behind the principle is already used here on Earth."

The Greatest 'Amateur' Astronomer You've Probably Never Heard Of

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the giving-credit-where-it's-due dept.

Space 37

StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "From a true dark-sky site, the kind that was available to all of humanity for the first 200,000 years or so of our species' existence, the human eye can discern tens of thousands of stars, detailed features of the Milky Way and a handful of deep-sky nebulae. With the advent of the telescope, our reach into the Universe was greatly enhanced, as the increase in light-gathering power opened up orders of magnitude more stars and nebulae, and even allowed us to see a spiral structure to some nebulae beginning in the 1840s. But in all the time since then, the largest telescope ever developed is not even six times bigger than the largest from nearly 200 years ago. Yet the details we can observe in the Universe today aren't limited by what our eyes can perceive looking through our telescopes at all. The combination of astronomy and photography has changed our understanding of the Universe forever, and we owe the greatest advances to an 'amateur' you've probably never heard of: Isaac Roberts."

NASA Developing Robotic Satellite Refueling System

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the fill-it-up dept.

NASA 30

coondoggie (973519) writes "Refueling aging satellites that were never meant to be refueled is the goal with a emerging NASA system that could save millions. NASA this week said since April 2011, engineers have been working to build robotic satellite servicing technologies necessary to bring in-orbit inspection, repair, refueling, component replacement and assembly capabilities to spacecraft needing aid."

An MIT Dean's Defense of the Humanities

timothy posted about 4 months ago | from the she-oughtta-know dept.

Education 264

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) writes "Deborah Fitzgerald, a historian of science and dean of MIT's School of the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, speaks out in a Boston Globe column about the importance of the humanities, even as STEM fields increasingly dominate public discussion surrounding higher education. '[T]he world's problems are never tidily confined to the laboratory or spreadsheet. From climate change to poverty to disease, the challenges of our age are unwaveringly human in nature and scale, and engineering and science issues are always embedded in broader human realities, from deeply felt cultural traditions to building codes to political tensions. So our students also need an in-depth understanding of human complexities — the political, cultural, and economic realities that shape our existence — as well as fluency in the powerful forms of thinking and creativity cultivated by the humanities, arts, and social sciences.' Fitzgerald goes on to quote a variety of STEM MIT graduates who have described the essential role the humanities played in their education, and she concludes with a striking juxtaposition of important skills perhaps reminscent of Robert Heinlein's famous description of an ideal human being: 'Whatever our calling, whether we are scientists, engineers, poets, public servants, or parents, we all live in a complex, and ever-changing world, and all of us deserve what's in this toolbox: critical thinking skills; knowledge of the past and other cultures; an ability to work with and interpret numbers and statistics; access to the insights of great writers and artists; a willingness to experiment, to open up to change; and the ability to navigate ambiguity.' What other essential knowledge or skills should we add to this imaginary 'toolbox'?"

US Should Use Trampolines To Get Astronauts To the ISS Suggests Russian Official

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the space-men-can't-jump dept.

United States 272

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "The Washington Post reports that Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has lashed out again, this time at newly announced US ban on high-tech exports to Russia suggesting that 'after analyzing the sanctions against our space industry, I propose the US delivers its astronauts to the ISS with a trampoline.' Rogozin does actually have a point, although his threats carry much less weight than he may hope. Russia is due to get a $457.9 million payment for its services soon and few believe that Russia would actually give it up. Plus, as Jeffrey Kluger noted at Time Magazine, Russia may not want to push the United States into the hands of SpaceX and Orbital Sciences, two private American companies that hope to be able to send passengers to the station soon. SpaceX and Orbital Sciences have already made successful unmanned resupply runs to the ISS and both are also working on upgrading their cargo vehicles to carry people. SpaceX is currently in the lead and expects to launch US astronauts, employed by SpaceX itself, into orbit by 2016. NASA is building its own heavy-lift rocket for carrying astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit, but it won't be ready for anything but test flights until after 2020. 'That schedule, of course, could be accelerated considerably if Washington gave NASA the green light and the cash,' says Kluger. 'America's manned space program went from a standing start in 1961 to the surface of the moon in 1969—eight years from Al Shepard to Tranquility Base. The Soviet Union got us moving then. Perhaps Russia will do the same now.'"

Graphene Could Be Dangerous To Humans and the Environment

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the keep-out-of-eyes-and-mouth dept.

Earth 135

Zothecula (1870348) writes "It's easy to get carried away when you start talking about graphene. Its properties hold the promise of outright technological revolution in so many fields that it has been called a wonder material. Two recent studies, however, give us a less than rosy angle. In the first, a team of biologists, engineers and material scientists at Brown University examined graphene's potential toxicity in human cells. Another study by a team from University of California, Riverside's Bourns College of Engineering examined how graphene oxide nanoparticles might interact with the environment if they found their way into surface or ground water sources."

Understanding the 2 Billion-Year-Old Natural Nuclear Reactor In W Africa

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the it's-getting-hot-in-here dept.

Science 152

KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "In June 1972, nuclear scientists at the Pierrelatte uranium enrichment plant in south-east France noticed a strange deficit in the amount of uranium-235 they were processing. That's a serious problem in a uranium enrichment plant where every gram of fissionable material has to be carefully accounted for. The ensuing investigation found that the anomaly originated in the ore from the Oklo uranium mine in Gabon, which contained only 0.600% uranium-235 compared to 0.7202% for all other ore on the planet. It turned out that this ore was depleted because it had gone critical some 2 billion years earlier, creating a self-sustaining nuclear reaction that lasted for 300,000 years and using up the missing uranium-235 in the process. Since then, scientists have studied this natural reactor to better understand how buried nuclear waste spreads through the environment and also to discover whether the laws of physics that govern nuclear reactions may have changed in the 1.5 billion years since the reactor switched off. Now a review of the science that has come out of Oklo shows how important this work has become but also reveals that there is limited potential to gather more data. After an initial flurry of interest in Oklo, mining continued and the natural reactors--surely among the most extraordinary natural phenomena on the planet-- have all been mined out."

What It's Like To Be the Scientific Consultant For The Big Bang Theory

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the it's-a-tough-gig dept.

Television 253

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Science sits down with David Saltzberg, who's been The Big Bang Theory's one and only science consultant since it premiered. Saltzberg is an astrophysicist at the University of California, Los Angeles. He chats about how the portrayal of science on the show has changed over the years, whether it turns kids away from science, and how you can get your own job as a scientific consultant in Hollywood."

SpaceX Looking For Help With "Landing" Video

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the clean-it-up dept.

Space 110

Maddog Batty (112434) writes "SpaceX recently made the news by managing to soft land at sea the first stage of rocket used to launch its third supply mission to the International Space Station. Telemetry reported that it was able to hover for eight seconds above the sea before running out of fuel and falling horizontal. Unfortunately, due to stormy weather at the time, their support ship wasn't able to get to the "landing" spot at the time and the first stage wasn't recovered and is likely now on the sea bed. Video of the landing was produced and transmitted to an aeroplane but unfortunately it is rather corrupted. SpaceX have attempted to improve it but it isn't much better. They are now looking for help to improve it further."

13th Century Multiverse Theory Unearthed

Soulskill posted about 4 months ago | from the basically-the-same,-just-fewer-spaceships-and-more-spacehorses dept.

Science 59

ananyo writes: "Robert Grosseteste, an English scholar who lived from about 1175 to 1253, was the first thinker in northern Europe to try to develop unified physical laws to explain the origin and form of the geocentric medieval universe of heavens and Earth. Tom McLeish, professor of physics and pro-vice-chancellor for research at Britain's Durham University, and a multinational team of researchers found that Grosseteste's physical laws were so rigorously defined that they could be re-expressed using modern mathematical and computing techniques — as the medieval scholar might have done if he had been able to use such methods. The thinking went that the translated equations could then be solved and the solutions explored. The 'Ordered Universe Project' started six years ago and has now reported some of its findings. Only a small set of Grosseteste's parameters resulted in the "ordered" medieval universe he sought to explain, the researchers found; most resulted either in no spheres being created or a 'disordered' cosmos of numerous spheres. Grosseteste, then, had created a medieval 'multiverse.' De Luce suggests that the scholar realized his theories could result in universes with all manner of spheres, although he did not appear to realize the significance of this. A century later, philosophers Albert of Saxony and Nicole Oresme both considered the idea of multiple worlds and how they might exist simultaneously or in sequence."

Astronomers Determine the Length of Day of an Exoplanet

Soulskill posted about 4 months ago | from the now-we-know-when-to-launch-sneak-attacks dept.

Space 34

The Bad Astronomer writes: "Astronomers have just announced that the exoplanet Beta Pic b — a 10-Jupiter-mass world 60 light years away — rotates in about 8 hours. Using a high-resolution spectrometer and exploiting the Doppler shift of light seen as the planet spins, they measured its rotation velocity as 28,000 mph. Making reasonable assumptions about the planet's size, that gives the length of its day. This is the first time such a measurement has been achieved for an exoplanet."

Oklahoma Botched an Execution With Untested Lethal Injection Drugs

Unknown Lamer posted about 4 months ago | from the firing-squads-make-a-comeback dept.

Crime 1198

Daniel_Stuckey (2647775) writes "The state of Oklahoma had scheduled two executions for Tuesday, April 29th. This in spite of myriad objections that the drugs being used for both lethal injections had not been tested, and thus could violate the constitutional right to the courts, as well as the 8th Amendment: protection from cruel and unusual punishment. After much legal and political wrangling, the state proceeded with the executions anyway. It soon became clear that the critics' worst case scenarios were coming true — Oklahoma violently botched the first execution. The inmate "blew" a vein and had a heart attack. The state quickly postponed the second one. 'After weeks of Oklahoma refusing to disclose basic information about the drugs for tonight's lethal injection procedures, tonight, Clayton Lockett was tortured to death,' Madeline Cohen, the attorney of Charles Warner, the second man scheduled for execution, said in a statement. Katie Fretland at The Guardian reported from the scene of the botched attempt to execute Lockett using the untested, unvetted, and therefore potentially unconstitutional lethal injection drugs." sciencehabit also points out a study indicating that around 4% of death row inmates in the U.S. are likely innocent.

Aerospace Merger: ATK Joins With Orbital Sciences Corp

Soulskill posted about 4 months ago | from the drumming-up-competition-for-spacex dept.

Businesses 22

FullBandwidth writes: "Two Virginia aerospace players, Arlington-based Alliant Techsystems (ATK) and Dulles-based Orbital Sciences, are merging to create a $5 billion venture. The companies announced the merger in a joint announcement Tuesday. ATK is also spinning off its lucrative hunting gear segment into a separate company. 'The move is mutually beneficial, company executives said, as ATK looks to bolster its aerospace business and Orbital Sciences hopes to boost the scale of its existing operations as well as gain a foothold in the defense sector. ... Another beneficiary of the merger is NASA, a client of both companies. Last year, Orbital successfully completed a supply run to the international space station using its Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft. Orbital’s expansion after the merger will make it a bigger player in the commercial space sector as it competes with the likes of SpaceX, billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s company, said Howard Rubel, an equity research analyst at Jefferies.'"

You Are What You're Tricked Into Eating

Unknown Lamer posted about 4 months ago | from the pizza-is-a-balance-diet dept.

Science 499

Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes "Two prominent nutrition experts have put forth the theory that the current obesity epidemic is, in large part, the result of processed foods tricking our appetite control mechanisms. They argue that evolution has given humans a delicately balanced system that balances appetite with metabolic needs, and that processed foods trick that system by making foods high in fats and carbohydrates have the gustatory qualities of proteins. As the researchers put it, 'Many people eat far too much fat and carbohydrate in their attempt to consume enough protein.'"

Proposed Indicator of Life On Alien Worlds May Be Bogus

Unknown Lamer posted about 4 months ago | from the exomoons-ruin-everything dept.

Space 112

sciencehabit (1205606) writes with bad news for anyone hoping to use the spectral signatures of exoplanets to determine if their atmospheres have life-enabling compositions. "Call it the cosmic version of fool's gold. What was once considered a sure-fire sign of life on distant planets may not be so sure-fire after all, a new study suggests. The signal—a strong chemical imbalance in the planet's atmosphere that could only be generated by thriving ecosystems—could instead be the combined light from a lifeless exoplanet and its equally barren moon."

NASA Honors William Shatner With Distinguished Public Service Medal

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the set-phasers-to-stunned dept.

NASA 111

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Red Orbit reports that after nearly 50 years of warping across galaxies and saving the universe from a variety of alien threats and celestial disasters, Star Trek's William Shatner was honored with NASA's Distinguished Public Service medal, the highest award bestowed by the agency to non-government personnel. 'William Shatner has been so generous with his time and energy in encouraging students to study science and math, and for inspiring generations of explorers, including many of the astronauts and engineers who are a part of NASA today,' said David Weaver, NASA's associate administrator for the Office of Communications at NASA Headquarters in Washington. 'He's most deserving of this prestigious award.' Past recipients of the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal include astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, former NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory director and Voyager project scientist Edward Stone, theoretical physicist and astronomer Lyman Spitzer, and science fiction writer Robert Heinlein. The award is presented to those who 'have personally made a contribution representing substantial progress to the NASA mission. The contribution must be so extraordinary that other forms of recognition would be inadequate.'"

Male Scent Molecules May Be Compromising Biomedical Research

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the something-doesn't-smell-right dept.

Biotech 274

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Scientists have found that mice feel 36% less pain when a male researcher is in the room, versus a female researcher. The rodents are also less stressed out. The effect appears to be due to scent molecules that male mammals (including humans, dogs, and cats) have been emitting for eons. The finding could help explain why some labs have trouble replicating the results of others, and it could cause a reevaluation of decades of animal experiments: everything from the effectiveness of experimental drugs to the ability of monkeys to do math. Male odor could even influence human clinical trials."

Hackaday Offers Trip Into Space For Best DIY Hardware

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the hack-your-way-into-space dept.

Space 37

An anonymous reader writes "SupplyFrame is launching The Hackaday Prize, a challenge to create open connected devices judged by Andrew 'Bunnie' Huang, and Limor 'Ladyada' Fried, among others. The grand prize is an all-expense-paid trip to space on a carrier of your choice or $196,418 if going into space isn't your thing. 'We launched The Hackaday Prize because we want to see the next evolution of hardware happen right now, and we want it to be open,' said Mike Szczys, managing editor of Hackaday.com."

Ask Team Trying To Return 36-Year-Old Spacecraft From Space About Their Project

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the coming-back dept.

Space 53

samzenpus (5) writes "Last week we told you about a group that was trying to recover the 36-year-old ISEE-3 spacecraft from deep space. Led by CEO and founder of Skycorp, Dennis Wingo, and astrobiologist and editor of NASA Watch, Keith Cowing, the crowdfunded project plans to steer ISEE-3 back into an Earth orbit and return it to scientific operations. Once in orbit, they hope to turn the spacecraft and its instruments over to the public by creating an app that allows anyone access to its data. The team has agreed to take some time from lassoing spacecraft from deep space in order to answer your questions. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post. Hopefully the plan goes better than xkcd predicts."

How Concrete Contributed To the Downfall of the Roman Empire

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the huff-and-puff-and-blow-your-civilization-down dept.

Science 384

concertina226 (2447056) writes "The real reason behind the downfall of the Roman Empire might not have been lead contaminating in the water, which is the most popular theory, but the use of concrete as a building material. Dr Penelope Davies, a historian with the University of Texas believes that the rise of concrete as a building material may have weakened ancient Rome's entire political system as Pompey and Julius Caesar began 'thinking like kings'. Concrete was used to build many of Rome's finest monuments, such as the Pantheon, the Colosseum and the Tabularium, which have lasted the test of time and are still standing today."

The Koch Brothers Attack On Solar Energy

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the there-goes-the-sun dept.

Power 769

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "The NYT writes in an editorial that for the last few months, the Koch brothers and their conservative allies in state government have been spending heavily to fight incentives for renewable energy, by pushing legislatures to impose a surtax on this increasingly popular practice, hoping to make installing solar panels on houses less attractive. 'The coal producers' motivation is clear: They see solar and wind energy as a long-term threat to their businesses. That might seem distant at the moment, when nearly 40 percent of the nation's electricity is still generated by coal, and when less than 1 percent of power customers have solar arrays. But given new regulations on power-plant emissions of mercury and other pollutants, and the urgent need to reduce global warming emissions, the future clearly lies with renewable energy.' For example, the Arizona Public Service Company, the state's largest utility, funneled large sums through a Koch operative to a nonprofit group that ran an ad claiming net metering would hurt older people on fixed incomes (video) by raising electric rates. The ad tried to link the requirement to President Obama. Another Koch ad likens the renewable-energy requirement to health care reform, the ultimate insult in that world. 'Like Obamacare, it's another government mandate we can't afford,' the narrator says. 'That line might appeal to Tea Partiers, but it's deliberately misleading,' concludes the editorial. 'This campaign is really about the profits of Koch Carbon and the utilities, which to its organizers is much more important than clean air and the consequences of climate change.'"

NASA Mars Rover Begins Examining Strange Slab Nicknamed "Windjana"

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the check-it-out dept.

Mars 38

An anonymous reader writes in with this bit of news about the Mars rover Curiosity. "NASA's Curiosity Mars rover is using several tools this weekend to take a closer look at a sandstone slab being assessed as a possible drilling target. If it fits the bill, the target could become Curiosity's third drilled rock. 'Windjana,' named after a gorge in Western Australia, would be the mission's first drilled rock that is not mudstone. To determine whether Curiosity should drill at Windjana, engineers have asked the rover to perform a number of tasks, including observations with the camera and X-ray spectrometer located at the end of the its arm and interpretations of composition at different points on the rock with a device that fires laser shots from the rover's mast."

Brazilians Welcome Genetically-Modified Mosquito To Help Fight Dengue Fever

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the what-could-go-wrong? dept.

Medicine 137

An anonymous reader writes "The Brazilian government have decided to try battling the spread of dengue fever with GM mosquitoes. 'Now, with dengue endemic in three of the host cities for this summer's World Cup , Brazilian health officials are trying a radical new approach — biotechnology. They've begun a two-year trial release of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that have been genetically modified. "We need to provide the government alternatives because the system we are using now in Brazil doesn't work," says Aldo Malavasi, president of Moscamed, the Brazilian company that's running the trial from a lab just outside of Jacobina. The new breed of Aedes aegypti has been given a lethal gene. The deadly flaw is kept in check in the lab, but the mosquitoes soon die in the wild.'"

What Happens To All the Universe's Hydrogen?

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the here-today-gone-tomorrow dept.

Space 109

StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "Just a second after the Big Bang, the Universe was a hot bath of radiation, with a small fraction of protons and neutrons in about equal numbers left over. By time it was four minutes old, it was 92% hydrogen (by number of atoms) and 8% helium. Yet the Universe has aged nearly 14 billion years since then, and have formed many generations of stars, all of which burn hydrogen into heavier elements. So how much hydrogen is left, and how much will be left far into the future? A lot more than you might think."

Scientists Give Praying Mantises Tiny 3D Glasses

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the all-the-better-to-see-you-with dept.

Science 55

An anonymous reader writes "Scientists at Newcastle University are outfitting praying mantises with tiny 3D glasses in order to study how their vision works. From the article: 'Praying mantises have stereoscopic vision, unlike most invertebrates. This makes them sophisticated hunters, and ideal subjects for a team from Newcastle University led by vision scientist Jenny Read. By putting 3-D glasses on the mantises and faking them out, Reid and her colleagues want to learn how the insect's vision differs from ours.""

Waste Management: The Critical Element For Nuclear Energy Expansion

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the put-that-anywhere dept.

Earth 281

Lasrick (2629253) writes "As part of a roundtable on the risks of developing nuclear power in developing countries, Harvard's Yun Zhou explores the reprocessing of spent fuel. Zhou points out that no country in the world has come up with a permanent solution to nuclear waste in either of its two forms: the spent fuel that emerges directly from reactor cores and the high-level radioactive waste that results when spent fuel is reprocessed. Zhou points out that China and France have just announced a joint effort to establish a reprocessing plant, but that option isn't really practical for the developing world."

Mathematicians Push Back Against the NSA

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the stop-adding-to-the-problem dept.

Math 233

First time accepted submitter Parseval (3632761) writes "The NSA and GCHQ need mathematicians in order to function — they are some of the biggest employers of mathematicians in the world. This New Scientist article by a mathematician describes some of the math behind mass surveillance, and calls on other mathematicians to refuse to cooperate with the NSA/GCHQ while they continue to surveil the entire population. From the article: 'Mathematicians seldom face ethical questions. We enjoy the feeling that what we do is separate from the everyday world. As the number theorist G. H. Hardy wrote in 1940: "I have never done anything 'useful'. No discovery of mine has made, or is likely to make, directly or indirectly, for good or ill, the least difference to the amenity of the world." That idea is now untenable. Mathematics clearly has practical applications that are highly relevant to the modern world, not least internet encryption.'"

Bill Gates & Twitter Founders Put "Meatless" Meat To the Test

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the now-with-more-vitamin-M dept.

Biotech 466

assertation (1255714) writes "Bill Gates and the founders of Twitter are betting millions that meat lovers will embrace a new plant-based product that mimics the taste of chicken and beef. Meat substitutes have had a hard time making it to the dinner tables of Americans over the years, but the tech giants believe these newest products will pass the "tastes like chicken" test. Gates has met several times with Ethan Brown, whose product, Beyond Meat, is a mash-up of proteins from peas and plants."

This Chip Can Tell If You've Been Poisoned

Soulskill posted about 4 months ago | from the let-somebody-else-test-it-first dept.

Medicine 36

sciencehabit writes "When you are dealing with a deadly poison that can be found in food and is a potential terrorist weapon, you want the best detection tools you can get. Now, researchers in France have demonstrated an improved method to detect the most deadly variant of the botulinum neurotoxin, which causes botulism. Their test — essentially, a lab on a tiny chip (abstract) — provides results faster than the standard method and accurately detects even low concentrations of the toxin."

Frigid Brown Dwarf Found Only 7.2 Light-Years Away

Soulskill posted about 4 months ago | from the interstellar-stalker-hiding-in-the-bushes dept.

Space 142

An anonymous reader writes "Astronomer Kevin Luhman just found the 7th closest star to the sun. It's a mere 7.2 light-years away, discovered using NASA's Spitzer and WISE telescopes. How could it exist so close for so long without us knowing? It's a brown dwarf — barely a star at all. 'Brown dwarfs are star-like objects that are more massive than planets, but not quite massive enough to ignite sustained fusion in their cores. Hydrogen fusion is what powers the Sun, and makes it hot; it's the mighty pressure of the Sun's core that makes that happen. Brown dwarfs don't have the oomph needed to keep that going.' This small almost-star is downright chilly at around 225-260 Kelvin. That's -48 to -13 C (or -54 to 9 F). As Phil Plait points out, that's not much different from the temperature in the freezer in your kitchen. He adds, 'It implies this object is very old, too, because it would've been a few thousands degrees when it formed, and would take at least a billion years to cool down to its current chilly temperature. It's hard to determine how old it actually is, but it's most likely 1-10 billion years old. It has a very low mass, too, probably between 3 and 10 times the mass of Jupiter. That's pretty lightweight even for a brown dwarf. And here's another amazing thing about it: It might be a planet. What I mean is, it may have formed around a star like a planet does, then got ejected by gravitational interactions with other planets.'"

Making Graphene Work For Real-World Devices

Soulskill posted about 4 months ago | from the more-better-faster-lighter-cheaper dept.

Science 18

aarondubrow writes: "Graphene, a one-atom-thick form of the carbon material graphite, is strong, light, nearly transparent and an excellent conductor of electricity and heat, but a number of practical challenges must be overcome before it can emerge as a replacement for silicon in electronics or energy devices. One particular challenge concerns the question of how graphene diffuses heat, in the form of phonons. Thermal conductivity is critical in electronics, especially as components shrink to the nanoscale. Using the Stampede supercomputer at the Texas Advanced Computing Center, Professor Li Shi simulated how phonons (heat-carrying vibrations in solids) scatter as a function of the thickness of the graphene layers. He also investigated how graphene interacts with substrate materials and how phonon scattering can be controlled. The results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Applied Physical Letters and Energy and Environmental Science."

Fossils of Earliest Known Pterosaur Found

Soulskill posted about 4 months ago | from the death-from-the-skies dept.

Science 18

damn_registrars writes: "A fossil of the earliest known Pterosaur flying reptile was found recently in China. Named Kryptodrakon progenitor, it was described in a paper published yesterday in the journal Current Biology (abstract). Its wingspan was about a meter and a half, very small compared to its evolutionary descendents, whose wingspan reached over 10 meters. 'The pterosaurs remained largely unchanged for tens of millions of years — with characteristics like long tails and relatively small heads — and none became very big. But later during the Jurassic period, some developed anatomical changes that heralded the arrival of a new branch called pterodactyloids that eventually replaced the more primitive forms of pterosaurs. Many of these pterodactyloids had massive, elongated heads topped with huge crests, lost their teeth and grew to huge sizes. Perhaps the defining characteristic of the group is an elongation in the bone at the base of the fourth finger called the fourth metacarpal, and Kryptodrakon is the oldest known pterosaur to have this advance, the researchers said.'"

Why Speed-Reading Apps Don't Work

Soulskill posted about 4 months ago | from the your-brain-isn't-as-quick-as-your-eyes dept.

Books 92

sciencehabit writes: "Does reading faster mean reading better? That's what speed-reading apps claim, promising to boost not just the number of words you read per minute, but also how well you understand a text. There's just one problem: The same thing that speeds up reading actually gets in the way of comprehension, according to a new study (abstract). Apps like Spritz or the aptly-named Speed Read are built around the idea that these eye movements, called saccades, are a redundant waste of time. It's more efficient, their designers claim, to present words one at a time in a fixed spot on a screen, discouraging saccades and helping you get through a text more quickly. But that's not what researchers have found."

Algorithm Distinguishes Memes From Ordinary Information

Soulskill posted about 4 months ago | from the i-wonder-what-scumbag-d&d-player-thinks dept.

Science 38

KentuckyFC writes: "Memes are the cultural equivalent of genes: units that transfer ideas or practices from one human to another by means of imitation. In recent years, network scientists have become increasingly interested in how memes spread, work that has led to important insights into the nature of news cycles, into information avalanches on social networks and so on. But what exactly makes a meme and distinguishes it from other forms of information is not well understood. Now a team of researchers has developed a way to automatically distinguish scientific memes from other forms of information for the first time. Their technique exploits the way scientific papers reference older papers on related topics. They scoured the half a million papers published by Physical Review between 1893 and 2010 looking for common words or phrases. They define an interesting meme as one that is more likely to appear in a paper that cites another paper in which the same meme occurs. In other words, interesting memes are more likely to replicate. They end up with a list of words and phrases that have spread by replication and can also see how this spreading has changed over the last 100 years. The top five phrases are: loop quantum cosmology, unparticle, sonoluminescence, MgB2 and stochastic resonance; all of which are important topics in physics. The team say the technique is interesting because it provides a way to distinguish memes from other forms of information that do not spread in the same way through replication."

SpaceX Files Suit Against US Air Force

Soulskill posted about 4 months ago | from the go-big-or-go-home dept.

Space 176

Today Elon Musk announced that SpaceX has decided to challenge the U.S. Air Force's restrictions on rocket launches related to national security. Such launches are done with a Russian rocket right now, and that contract is not up for competition with other rocket makers, like SpaceX. Musk says the company has exhausted other options to become part of the bidding process. "We're just protesting and saying these launches should be competed. And if we compete and lose, that's fine, but why were they not even competed?" He also said it's the "wrong time to send hundreds of millions of dollars to the Kremlin," referencing events in the Ukraine.

At the same press conference, Musk announced that SpaceX's recent attempt to soft-land a rocket booster stage was successful. It landed and was in "healthy condition" immediately afterward. Unfortunately, they weren't able to recover it because it landed in the middle of a rough storm, which eventually destroyed the stage. The storm was rough enough that the Coast Guard wouldn't even send a boat out to help recover it. Musk said, "We'll get much bigger boats next time." SpaceX also plans on landing the stage on shore at some point, which makes recovery easier. Musk made this prediction: "I expect we will be able to land a stage back at Cape Canaveral by the end of the year."

Anonymous's Latest Target: Boston Children's Hospital

Soulskill posted about 4 months ago | from the put-down-the-digital-pitchforks dept.

Medicine 329

Brandon Butler writes: "Supporters of the faceless collective known as Anonymous have taken up the cause of a young girl, after the State of Massachusetts removed her from her parents earlier this year. However, the methods used to show support may have unintended consequences, which could impact patient care. On Thursday, the Boston Children's Hospital confirmed that they were subjected to multiple DDoS attacks over the Easter holiday. Said attacks, which have continued throughout the week, aim to take the hospital's website offline. Similar attacks, including website defacement, have also targeted the Wayside Youth and Family Support Network. Both organizations are at the heart of a sensitive topic, child welfare and the rights of a parent." Members of Anonymous are now calling for a halt to the attacks.

How Japan Plans To Build Orbital Solar Power Stations

timothy posted about 4 months ago | from the start-up-and-build-down dept.

Space 230

the_newsbeagle (2532562) writes "Solar power stations in orbit aren't exactly a new idea — Asimov set one of his stories on such a space station back in 1941. Everyone thinks it's a cool idea to collect solar power 24 hours a day and beam it down to Earth. But what with the expense and difficulty of rocketing up the parts and constructing and operating the stations in orbit, nobody's built one yet. While you probably still shouldn't hold your breath, it's interesting to learn that Japan's space agency has spec'd out such a solar power station."

Siphons Work Due To Gravity, Not Atmospheric Pressure: Now With Peer Review

timothy posted about 4 months ago | from the suck-it-oed dept.

Science 360

knwny (2940129) writes "Peeved by the widespread misconception that siphons work because of atmospheric pressure, physics lecturer Dr. Stephen Hughes, [in 2010] wrote a mail to the prestigious Oxford English Dictionary(OED) pointing out the error. To back his claim, Dr.Hughes tested a siphon inside a hypobaric chamber to check if changes in atmospheric pressure had any effect on the siphon and demonstrated that gravity and not atmospheric pressure was the driving principle. [This week, the] paper detailing his experiment was published in Nature. The OED spokesperson responded saying that his suggestions would be taken into account during the next rewrite."

Blood of World's Oldest Woman Hints At Limits of Life

timothy posted about 4 months ago | from the telomere-more-about-this dept.

Science 333

porkchop_d_clown (39923) writes "When Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper died in 2005, she was the oldest woman in the world. [New Scientist reported Wednesday] that, at the end of her life, most of her white blood cells had been produced by just two stem cells — implying the rest of her blood stem cells had already died, and hinting at a possible limit to the human life span."

Master of Analytics Program Admission Rates Falling To Single Digits

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the no-room dept.

Businesses 74

dcblogs (1096431) writes "The 75 students in the 2014 Master of Science in Analytics class at North Carolina State University received, in total, 246 job offers from 55 employers, valued at $22.5 million in salaries and bonuses, which is 24% higher than last year's combined offers. But the problem ahead is admissions. There may not be enough master's programs in analytics to meet demand. NC State has received nearly 800 applications for 85 seats. Its acceptance rate is now at 12.5%. Northwestern University's Master of Science in Analytics received 600 applications for 30 openings its September class. That's an acceptance rate of 6%"

Group Wants To Recover 36-Year-Old Historic Spacecraft From Deep Space

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the bring-it-home dept.

NASA 141

An anonymous reader writes "A band of space hackers and engineers are trying to do something never done before — recover a 36 year old NASA spacecraft from the grips of deep space and time. With old NASA documents and Rockethub crowdfunding, a team led by Dennis Wingo and Keith Cowing is attempting to steer ISEE-3, later rechristened ICE, the International Cometary Explorer, back into an Earth orbit and return it to scientific operations. Dennis says, 'ISEE-3 can become a great teaching tool for future engineers and scientists helping with design and travel to Mars'. Only 40 days remain before the spacecraft will be out of range for recovery. A radio telescope is available, propulsion designs are in hand and the team is hoping for public support to provide the small amount needed to accomplish a very unique milestone in space exploration."

Are Habitable Exoplanets Bad News For Humanity?

Unknown Lamer posted about 4 months ago | from the type-13-planets dept.

Space 608

An anonymous reader writes "The discovery of Kepler-186f last week has dusted off an interesting theory regarding the fate of humanity and the link between that fate and the possibility of life on other planets. Known as the The Great Filter, this theory attempts to answer the Fermi Paradox (why we haven't found other complex life forms anywhere in our vast galaxy) by introducing the idea of an evolutionary bottleneck which would make the emergence of a life form capable of interstellar colonization statistically rare. As scientists gear up to search for life on Kepler-186f, some people are wondering if humanity has already gone through The Great Filter and miraculously survived or if it's still on our horizon and may lead to our extinction."

New Shape Born From Rubber Bands

Unknown Lamer posted about 4 months ago | from the sproingees dept.

Science 120

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Physicists playing with rubber bands have discovered a new shape. In an attempt to create a spring that replicates the light-bending properties of cuttlefish ink sacs, a team of researchers suspended two rubber strips of different lengths. Connecting the bottoms of the two strips to a cup of water, the shorter band stretched to the same length as the longer one. After gluing the two stretched strips together, the researchers gradually drained the water from the cup. As the bands retracted and twisted from the reduced strain, the researchers were shocked to see the formation of a hemihelix with multiple rainbow-shaped boundaries called perversions. The team hopes their work inspires nanodevices and molecules that twist and transform from flat strips into predetermined 3D shapes on demand." There are several videos attached to the original paper, and all can be viewed without flash.

Astronomers Discover Pair of Black Holes In Inactive Galaxy

Unknown Lamer posted about 4 months ago | from the ate-all-the-other-stars dept.

Space 45

William Robinson (875390) writes "The Astronomers at XMM-Newton have detected a pair of supermassive black holes at the center of an inactive galaxy. Most massive galaxies in the Universe are thought to harbor at least one supermassive black hole at their center. And a pair of black holes is indication of strong possibility that the galaxies have merged. Finding black holes in quiescent galaxies is difficult because there are no gas clouds feeding the black holes, so the cores of these galaxies are truly dark. It can be only detected by this 'tidal disruption event'."

NASA Chief Tells the Critics of Exploration Plan: "Get Over It"

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the ask-me-if-I-care dept.

NASA 216

mknewman (557587) writes "For years, critics have been taking shots at NASA's plans to corral a near-Earth asteroid before moving on to Mars — and now NASA's chief has a message for those critics: 'Get over it, to be blunt.' NASA Administrator Charles Bolden defended the space agency's 20-year timeline for sending astronauts to the Red Planet on Tuesday, during the opening session of this year's Humans 2 Mars Summit at George Washington University in the nation's capital."

Mobile Game Attempts To Diagnose Alzheimer's

Soulskill posted about 4 months ago | from the unforgettable-research dept.

Medicine 21

the_newsbeagle writes "Currently, the best way to check if a person has a high likelihood of developing Alzheimer's is to perform a PET scan to measure the amount of amyloid plaque in his or her brain. That's an expensive procedure. But a startup called Akili Interactive says it has developed a mobile game that can identify likely Alzheimer's patients just by their gameplay and game results. The game is based on a neuroscience study which showed that multitasking is one of the first brain functions to take a hit in Alzheimer's patients. Therefore the game requires players to perform two tasks at the same time."

Implant Injects DNA Into Ear, Improves Hearing

Soulskill posted about 4 months ago | from the assimilating-individual-organs dept.

Biotech 34

sciencehabit writes "Many people with profound hearing loss have been helped by devices called cochlear implants, but their hearing is still far from perfect. They often have trouble distinguishing different musical pitches, for example, or hearing a conversation in a noisy room. Now, researchers have found a clever way of using cochlear implants to deliver new genes into the ear — a therapy that, in guinea pigs, dramatically improves hearing (abstract)."

The Hackers Who Recovered NASA's Lost Lunar Photos

Soulskill posted about 4 months ago | from the best-thing-to-come-out-of-a-mcdonald's dept.

Moon 89

An anonymous reader sends this story from Wired: "The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project has since 2007 brought some 2,000 pictures back from 1,500 analog data tapes. They contain the first high-resolution photographs ever taken from behind the lunar horizon, including the first photo of an earthrise. Thanks to the technical savvy and DIY engineering of the team at LOIRP, it's being seen at a higher resolution than was ever previously possible. ... The photos were stored with remarkably high fidelity on the tapes, but at the time had to be copied from projection screens onto paper, sometimes at sizes so large that warehouses and even old churches were rented out to hang them up. The results were pretty grainy, but clear enough to identify landing sites and potential hazards. After the low-fi printing, the tapes were shoved into boxes and forgotten. ... The drives had to be rebuilt and in some cases completely re-engineered using instruction manuals or the advice of people who used to service them. The data they recovered then had to be demodulated and digitized, which added more layers of technical difficulties."

Skilled Manual Labor Critical To US STEM Dominance

Soulskill posted about 4 months ago | from the jobs-that-make-the-world-go-'round dept.

Science 367

Doofus writes: "The Wall Street Journal has an eye-catching headline: Welders Make $150,000? Bring Back Shop Class. Quoting: 'According to the 2011 Skills Gap Survey by the Manufacturing Institute, about 600,000 manufacturing jobs are unfilled nationally because employers can't find qualified workers. To help produce a new generation of welders, pipe-fitters, electricians, carpenters, machinists and other skilled tradesmen, high schools should introduce students to the pleasure and pride they can take in making and building things in shop class. American employers are so yearning to motivate young people to work in manufacturing and the skilled trades that many are willing to pay to train and recruit future laborers. CEO Karen Wright of Ariel Corp. in Mount Vernon, Ohio, recently announced that the manufacturer of gas compressors is donating $1 million to the Knox County Career Center to update the center's computer-integrated manufacturing equipment, so students can train on the same machines used in Ariel's operations.' How many of us liked shop? How many young people should be training for skilled manufacturing and service jobs rather than getting history or political science degrees?"

Asteroid Impacts Bigger Risk Than Thought

Unknown Lamer posted about 4 months ago | from the just-build-space-lasers dept.

Space 172

Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes "The B612 Foundation, a U.S.-based nuclear test monitoring group, has disclosed that their acoustic sensors show asteroid impacts to be much more common than previously thought. Between 2000 and 2013 their infrasound system detected 26 major explosions due to asteroid strikes. The impacts were gauged at energies of 1 to 600 kilotons, compared to 45 kilotons for 1945 Hiroshima bomb."

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