NASA

NASA Teams Scientific Experts To Find Life On Exoplanets 58

Posted by Soulskill
from the so-we-can-steal-their-oil dept.
coondoggie writes: As the amount of newly discovered planets and systems outside our solar system grows, NASA is assembling a virtual team of scientific experts to search for signs of life. The program, Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS) will cull the collective expertise from each of NASA's science communities, including earth scientists, planetary scientists, heliophysicists, and astrophysicists. They'll work with key universities to better analyze all manner of exoplanets, as well as how the planet stars and neighbor planets interact to support life.
Science

MIT's New Tabletop Particle Detector Sees Individual Electrons 27

Posted by Soulskill
from the will-fit-inside-your-smartphone-soon dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Scientists at MIT have created a small, tabletop particle detector capable of identifying individual electrons within a cloud of radioactive gas. "As the radioactive krypton gas decays, it emits electrons that vibrate at a baseline frequency before petering out; this frequency spikes again whenever an electron hits an atom of radioactive gas. As an electron ping-pongs against multiple atoms in the detector, its energy appears to jump in a step-like pattern." The researchers used the detector to record the activity of 100,000 different electrons within the gas (abstract). They're hoping that with enough data about how the electrons bounce around, they'll be able to pinpoint the amount of energy released during these krypton atom decay events. Once they know how much energy is released, they can figure out the mass of a neutrino, which is also emitted during the decay.
Space

How False Color Astronomy Works 28

Posted by Soulskill
from the how-the-pretty-pictures-are-made dept.
StartsWithABang writes: When you look out at the nebulae in the night sky — especially if you're seeing them with your eye through a telescope for the first time — you might be in for a big surprise. These faint, fuzzy, extended objects are far dimmer, sparser and more cloud-like than almost anyone expects. Yet thanks to some incredible image processing, assigning colors to different wavelengths and adjusting the contrast, we can make out detailed structures beyond what even your aided eye could ever hope to perceive. Here's how the magic happens, and what it teaches us.
Medicine

Using Adderall In the Office To Get Ahead 391

Posted by Soulskill
from the your-TPS-reports-will-get-an-asterisk dept.
HughPickens.com writes: The NY Times reports on the changing usage of psychostimulants like Adderall. They were once only prescribed to help children with attention deficit disorders focus on their school work, but then college students found those drugs could increase their ability to study. Now a growing number of workers use them to help compete. What will happen as these drugs are more widely used in the workplace? According to Anjan Chatterjee, the use of neurotechnologies to enhance healthy people's brain function could easily become widespread. "If anything, we worship workplace productivity by any means. Americans work longer hours and take fewer vacations than most others in the developed world. Why not add drugs to energize, focus and limit that annoying waste of time — sleep?" Julian Savulescu says that what defines human beings is their extraordinary cognitive power and their ability to enhance that power through reading, writing, computing and now smart drugs. "Eighty-five percent of Americans use caffeine. Nicotine and sugar are also cognitive enhancers," says Savulescu.

But cognitive neurologist Martha Farah says regular use on the job is an invitation to dependence. "I also worry about the effect of drug-fueled productivity on people other than the users," says Farah. "It is not hard to imagine a supervisor telling employees that this is the standard they should aspire to in their work, however they manage to do it (hint, hint). The eventual result will be a ratcheting up of "normal" productivity, where everyone uses (and the early adopters' advantage is only fleeting)."
Space

Rosetta Spacecraft Catches Comet Eruption 42

Posted by Soulskill
from the stealth-comet-fires-thrusters dept.
An anonymous reader writes: On March 12, the Rosetta spacecraft was imaging Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from a distance of 75 kilometers (46 miles) and by pure chance it spotted an eruption of dusty material from the shaded nucleus. Long-duration spacecraft are essential if we are to fully understand the evolution of a comet as it gradually heats up during its approach to the sun. And it just so happens that Rosetta is always in orbit around 67P's nucleus, ready to spot any transient event that could erupt at any time on the surface

This latest event focuses on the comet's shaded underside. It is assumed that some sunlight slowly heated an outcrop, providing enough energy to sublimate subsurface ices, ejecting vapor and dust as a jet. The transient jet was imaged and measured by Rosetta's scientific imaging system OSIRIS. There is also the possibility that a wave of heating passed through the icy material, eventually producing a more explosive jet event.
Medicine

Study Confirms No Link Between MMR Vaccine and Autism 338

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-that-evidence-is-helpful-with-those-people dept.
An anonymous reader sends word of a new study (abstract) into the relationship between the MMR vaccine and kids who develop autism. In short: there is no relationship, even for kids at high risk of developing autism. From the article: [Researchers] examined records from a large health insurer to search for such an association. They checked the status of children continuously enrolled in the health plan from birth to at least 5 years old during 2001 to 2012. The children also had an older brother or sister continuously enrolled for at least six months between 1997 and 2012. "Consistent with studies in other populations, we observed no association between MMR vaccination and increased ASD risk among privately insured children.We also found no evidence that receipt of either 1 or 2 doses of MMR vaccination was associated with an increased risk of ASD among children who had older siblings with ASD." ... [An accompanying editorial said,] "Taken together, some dozen studies have now shown that the age of onset of ASD does not differ between vaccinated and unvaccinated children, the severity or course of ASD does not differ between vaccinated and unvaccinated children, and now the risk of ASD recurrence in families does not differ between vaccinated and unvaccinated children."
Medicine

Protein Converts Pancreatic Cancer Cells Back Into Healthy Cells 51

Posted by Soulskill
from the cellular-reset-button dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Scientists working in the area of pancreatic cancer research have uncovered a technique that sees cancerous cells transform back into normal healthy cells. The method relies in the introduction of a protein called E47, which bonds with particular DNA sequences and reverts the cells back to their original state. The study (abstract) was a collaboration between researchers at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, University of California San Diego and Purdue University. The scientists are hopeful that it could help combat the deadly disease in humans.
AI

Concerns of an Artificial Intelligence Pioneer 195

Posted by Soulskill
from the nobody-program-it-to-think-humans-can-be-used-as-batteries dept.
An anonymous reader writes: In January, the British-American computer scientist Stuart Russell drafted and became the first signatory of an open letter calling for researchers to look beyond the goal of merely making artificial intelligence more powerful. "We recommend expanded research aimed at ensuring that increasingly capable AI systems are robust and beneficial," the letter states. "Our AI systems must do what we want them to do." Thousands of people have since signed the letter, including leading artificial intelligence researchers at Google, Facebook, Microsoft and other industry hubs along with top computer scientists, physicists and philosophers around the world. By the end of March, about 300 research groups had applied to pursue new research into "keeping artificial intelligence beneficial" with funds contributed by the letter's 37th signatory, the inventor-entrepreneur Elon Musk.

Russell, 53, a professor of computer science and founder of the Center for Intelligent Systems at the University of California, Berkeley, has long been contemplating the power and perils of thinking machines. He is the author of more than 200 papers as well as the field's standard textbook, Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach (with Peter Norvig, head of research at Google). But increasingly rapid advances in artificial intelligence have given Russell's longstanding concerns heightened urgency.
The Courts

Update: No Personhood for Chimps Yet 332

Posted by timothy
from the do-you-have-standing dept.
sciencehabit writes: In a decision that effectively recognizes chimpanzees as legal persons for the first time, a New York judge [Monday] granted a pair of Stony Brook University lab animals the right to have their day in court. The ruling marks the first time in U.S. history that an animal has been covered by a writ of habeus corpus, which typically allows human prisoners to challenge their detention. The judicial action could force the university, which is believed to be holding the chimps, to release the primates, and could sway additional judges to do the same with other research animals. Update: 04/21 21:39 GMT by S : Science has updated their article with news that the court has released an amended order (PDF) with the words "writ of habeas corpus" removed, no longer implying that chimps have legal personhood. The order still allows the litigation to go forward, but we'll have to wait for resolution.
Science

3.46-Billion-Year-Old 'Fossils' Were Not Created By Life Forms 66

Posted by Soulskill
from the stupid-tricksy-fossilses dept.
sciencehabit writes: What are the oldest fossils on Earth? For a long time, a 3.46-billion-year-old rock from Western Australia seemed to hold the record. A 1993 Science paper (abstract) suggested that the Apex chert contained tiny, wormy structures that could have been fossilized cell walls of some of the world's first cyanobacteria. But now there is more evidence that these structures have nothing to do with life. The elongated filaments were instead created by minerals forming in hydrothermal systems, researchers report (abstract). After the minerals were formed, carbon glommed on to the edges, leaving behind an organic signature that looked suspiciously like cell walls.
NASA

NASA's Rocket Maker To Begin 3D Printing Flight-Ready Components 40

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-their-3d-printers-are-way-better-than-yours dept.
Lucas123 writes: United Launch Alliance (ULA), the company that makes rockets for NASA and the U.S. Air Force, plans to 3D print more than 100 flight-ready components for its next-gen Vulcan rocket. The company also just printed its first flight-ready component, a new Environmental Control System for its current Atlas V rocket. The ECS assembly had previously contained 140 parts that were made by third party suppliers, but ULA was able to reduce the parts to just 16, resulting in a 57% part-cost reduction. Along with cost reduction, ULA said 3D printing frees it from contracts with parts providers who may or may not deliver on time depending on whether the deem the rocket maker a priority at any given time. The company, which launches 12 rockets each year, is also hoping to use 3D printing for a more traditional role — rapid prototyping of parts. "We have a long list of [parts] candidates to evaluate — over 100 polymer parts we're considering and another 50 or so metal parts we're considering," said Greg Arend, program manager for additive manufacturing at ULA.
Space

Mysterious "Cold Spot": Fingerprint of Largest Structure In the Universe? 94

Posted by samzenpus
from the biggest-there-is dept.
astroengine writes At the furthest-most reaches of the observable universe lies one of the most enigmatic mysteries of modern cosmology: the cosmic microwave background (CMB) Cold Spot. Discovered in 2004, this strange feature etched into the primordial echo of the Big Bang has been the focus of many hypotheses — could it be the presence of another universe? Or is it just instrumental error? Now, astronomers may have acquired strong evidence as to the Cold Spot's origin and, perhaps unsurprisingly, no multiverse hypothesis is required. But it's not instrumental error either. It could be a vast "supervoid" around 1.8 billion light-years wide that is altering the characteristics of the CMB radiation traveling through it.
Science

Old Marconi Patent Inspires Tiny New Gigahertz Antenna 76

Posted by samzenpus
from the getting-small dept.
agent elevator writes Gehan Amaratunga and a group of engineers in England noted that the Guglielmo Marconi's famous British patent application from 1900 had an interesting and little noticed detail. It depicted a transmitter linked to an antenna connected to a coil, which had one end dangling while the RF signal was fed to the middle of the coil. That detail inspired them to develop a way to reduce the size of a GHz antenna without significant transmission loss by using dielectrics as the radio wave emitting material instead of conductors.
Science

Colors Help Set Body's Internal Clock 51

Posted by samzenpus
from the sleepy-blue dept.
First time accepted submitter MakeItGlow writes A new study by researchers from the University of Manchester found that mice use the color of light to set their body clock. The researchers investigated whether color signals from the eyes wound up in the suprachiasmatic nucleus—the part of the brain in vertebrates that keeps time using electrical and chemical signals. From the article: "Scientists have long known about the role light plays in governing circadian rhythms, which synchronize life’s ebb and flow with the 24-hour day. But they weren’t sure how different properties of light, such as color and brightness, contributed to winding up that clock. 'As a sort of common sense notion people have assumed that the clock somehow measures the amount of light in the outside world,' says Tim Brown, a neuroscientist at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom and an author of the new study. 'Our idea was that it might be doing something more sophisticated than that.'”
ISS

ISS Could Be Fitted With Lasers To Shoot Down Space Junk 167

Posted by samzenpus
from the point-and-shoot dept.
An anonymous reader writes Japan's Riken research institute has suggested a new idea for dealing with space junk. They say a fiber optic laser mounted onto the International Space Station could blast debris out of the sky. From the article: "To combat the increasingly dense layer of dead satellites and miscellaneous space debris that are enshrouding our planet, no idea — nets, lassos, even ballistic gas clouds — seems too far-fetched to avoid. Now, an international team of researchers led by Japan's Riken research institute has put forward what may be the most ambitious plan to date. They propose blasting an estimated 3,000 tons of space junk out of orbit with a fiber optic laser mounted on the International Space Station."