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Mars

ExoLance: Shooting Darts At Mars To Find Life 50

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the lance-it-from-orbit-just-to-be-sure dept.
astroengine (1577233) writes To find life on Mars, some scientists believe you might want to look underground for microbes that may be hiding from the harsh radiation that bathes the red planet's surface. Various NASA rovers have scraped away a few inches at a time, but the real paydirt may lie a meter or two below the surface. That's too deep for existing instruments, so a team of space enthusiasts has launched a more ambitious idea: dropping arrow-like probes from the Martian atmosphere to pierce the soil like bunker-busting bug catchers. The "ExoLance" project aims to drop ground-penetrating devices, each of which would carry a small chemical sampling test to find signs of life. "One of the benefits of doing this mission is that there is less engineering," said Chris Carberry, executive director of Explore Mars, a non-profit space advocacy group pushing the idea. "With penetrators we can engineer them to get what we want, and send it back to an orbiter. We can theoretically check out more than one site at a time. We could drop five or six, which increases the chances of finding something." They will be performing a test run in the Mojave desert to see if their design stands any chance of working.
Science

Cosmologists Show Negative Mass Could Exist In Our Universe 214

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the beam-me-up dept.
KentuckyFC (1144503) writes The idea of negative mass has fascinated scientists since it was first used in the 16th century to explain why metals gain weight when they are oxidized. Since then, theoretical physicists have shown how it could be used to create exotic objects such as wormholes and the Alcubierre warp drive. But cosmologists' attempts to include negative matter in any reasonable model of the cosmos have always run into trouble because negative mass violates the energy conditions required to make realistic universes with Einstein's theory of general relativity. Now a pair of cosmologists have found a way around this. By treating negative mass as a perfect fluid rather than a solid point-like object, they've shown that negative mass does not violate the energy conditions as had been thought, and so it must be allowed in our universe. That has important consequences. If positive and negative mass particles were created in the early universe, they would form a kind of plasma that absorbs gravitational waves. Having built a number of gravitational wave observatories that have to see a single gravitational wave, astronomers might soon need to explain the absence of observations. Negative mass would then come in extremely handy.
Science

Fossils of Cambrian Predator Preserved With Brain Impressions 45

Posted by samzenpus
from the old-way-of-thinking dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Researchers on Wednesday described fossilized remains unearthed in China showing in fine detail the brain structures of a bizarre group of sea creatures that were the top predators more than half a billion years ago. The 520-million-year-old creature, one of the first predators of its day, sported compound eyes, body armor and two spiky claws for grabbing prey. "The animals of the Cambrian are noted for being a collection of oddballs that are sometimes difficult to match up with anything currently living on Earth. But even among these oddities, Anomalocarids stand out (as their name implies). The creatures propelled themselves with a series of oar-like paddles arranged on their flanks, spotted prey with enormous compound eyes, and shoveled them into a disk-like mouth with large arms that resided at the very front of their bodies—although some of them ended up as filter feeders."
Medicine

Biofeedback Games and The Placebo Effect 57

Posted by samzenpus
from the machine-knows-I'm-happy dept.
vrml writes In medicine, it is well-known that sugar pills sometimes produce the same effects as real drugs (Placebo Effect). But could that happen with computers too? The first scientific study of the Placebo Effect in computing, just published by the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies , gives an affirmative answer. The experiment considered affective computing, that is those fancy applications that claim to know user's emotions by detecting physiological parameters with sensors. Researchers took two well-known affective computing systems and used them to control in real-time the state of an avatar that looked more and more nervous as users' stress level increased, and more and more relaxed as it decreased. But they also considered a third system in which, unbeknown to users, the sensors were disconnected from the computer and the avatar state was controlled by a random stream of physiological data instead of the real user's data. Results show that participants believed that the sham application was able to display their stress level. Even worse, only one of the two (costly) affective computing systems produced better results than the placebo. This suggests that evaluations of such novel computer applications should include also a placebo condition, as it is routinely done in medicine but not yet in computer science.
Science

Sexual Harassment Is Common In Scientific Fieldwork 362

Posted by Soulskill
from the communities-that-needs-fixing dept.
sciencehabit writes: Universities and other workplaces have codes of conduct guarding against sexual harassment. But what about the more casual venue of scientific fieldwork—which is also a workplace? A new survey finds that sexual harassment and assaults occur frequently in the field, with little consequence for the perpetrators or explicit prohibitions against such conduct. The study reveals that the primary targets were young women who were harassed, assaulted, and even raped by men who were usually senior to them in rank, although men also reported harassment.
Space

Two Big Dark Matter Experiments Gain US Support 37

Posted by Soulskill
from the stuff-that-dark-matters dept.
Graculus writes: The Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation announced on Friday that they will try to fund two major experiments to detect particles of the mysterious dark matter whose gravity binds the galaxies instead of just one. The decision allays fears that the funding agencies could afford only one experiment to continue the search for so-called weakly interacting massive particles, or WIMPs.
Earth

Giant Crater Appears In Northern Siberia 122

Posted by Soulskill
from the when-earth-attacks dept.
New submitter DavidMZ writes: The Siberian Times reports on a large crater of unknown origin that has appeared in the Yamal Peninsula in northern Siberia. The Russian government has dispatched a group of scientists to investigate the 80-meter-wide crater. Anna Kurchatova from Siberia's Sub-Arctic Scientific Research Center believes the crater was a result of an explosion when a mixture of water, salt, and natural gas exploded underground. The Yamai Peninsula is known to hold Russia's biggest natural gas reserve."
Science

Researchers Find Evidence of How Higgs Particle Imparts Mass 91

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the type-13-planet dept.
brindafella (702231) writes Physicists at CERN's Large Hadron Colider (LHC) ATLAS experiment have been looking through their data, and have found enough of the extremely rare "W boson" (proton-proton) collisions that they can now declare their results: They have found how the Higgs imparts mass to other particles. From the article: "'Only about one in 100 trillion proton-proton collisions would produce one of these events,' said Marc-André Pleier, a physicist at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory who played a leadership role in the analysis of this result for the ATLAS collaboration. 'You need to observe many [collisions] to see if the production rate is above or on par with predictions,' Pleier said. 'We looked through billions of proton-proton collisions produced at the LHC for a signature of these events—decay products that allow us to infer like Sherlock Holmes what happened in the event.' The analysis efforts started two years ago and were carried out in particular by groups from Brookhaven, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, University of Michigan, and Technische Universität Dresden, Germany." Here's a pre-print of the paper.
Japan

Mt. Fuji Volcano In 'Critical State' After Quakes 151

Posted by Soulskill
from the everybody-tiptoe-around-the-mountain dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Mount Fuji, in addition to being a picturesque landmark and an important part of Japanese culture, is also an active volcano. Its last eruption was just over 400 years ago, but its location — where the Eurasian, Pacific, and Philippine tectonic plates meet — mean it will always have potential for eruption. A new study (PDF) has examined the pressures around Mount Fuji in the wake of several recent earthquakes, including the magnitude 9 tremor that unleashed the destructive tsunami in 2011. The researchers now say the volcano is in a "critical state." According to the study's lead author, "The volcanic regions are the ones where the fluids trapped in the rock – boiling water, gas, liquid magma, which cause an eruption when they rise to the surface – exert the greatest pressure. The seismic waves add to this pressure, causing even more disturbance." They have no way of predicting when an eruption might happen, but the potential seems greater than ever.
Science

Your Personal Data Is On Your Phone -- In the Form of Bacteria 21

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the never-borrowing-a-phone-again dept.
jfruh (300774) writes "Yes, we all know that we have a lot of personally identifying information on our phones that maybe we shouldn't. But even if our data is locked down and encrypted, we're all leaving biological footprints on our phones, which are basically extensions of our personal bacterial ecosystem. A study has concluded that phones could be a less invasive source of information in studying individual microbiomes than current techniques."
Earth

The Last Three Months Were the Hottest Quarter On Record 552

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the not-imagining-things dept.
New submitter NatasRevol (731260) writes The last three months were collectively the warmest ever experienced since record-keeping began in the late 1800s. From the article: "Taken as a whole, the just-finished three-month period was about 0.68 degrees Celsius (1.22 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 20th-century average. That may not sound like much, but the added warmth has been enough to provide a nudge to a litany of weather and climate events worldwide. Arctic sea ice is trending near record lows for this time of year, abnormally warm ocean water helped spawn the earliest hurricane ever recorded to make landfall in North Carolina, and a rash of heat waves have plagued cities from India to California to the Middle East." Also, it puts to bed the supposed 'fact' that there's been a pause in temperature increase the last 17 years. Raw data shows it's still increasing. bizwriter also wrote in with some climate related news: A new report from libertarian think tank Heartland Institute claims that new government data debunks the concept of global climate change. However, an examination of the full data and some critical consideration shows that the organization, whether unintentionally or deliberately, has inaccurately characterized and misrepresented the information and what it shows. The Heartland Institute skews the data by taking two points and ignoring all of the data in between, kind of like grabbing two zero points from sin(x) and claiming you're looking at a steady state function.
Space

Brazil Nut Effect Explains Mystery of the Boulder-Strewn Surfaces of Asteroids 58

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the asteroids-go-well-with-moon-cheese dept.
KentuckyFC (1144503) writes When Japan's Hayabusa spacecraft gently maneuvered into a parking orbit around the asteroid Itokawa in September 2005, it conducted a comprehensive photographic survey, the most detailed ever taken of an asteroid. This survey revealed that Itokawa is covered in large boulders that look like ejecta from craters in other parts of the asteroid. But when astronomers added up the total volume of these boulders, it turned out to be greater than the volume of the craters there were supposed to have come from. Other asteroids also show a similarly skewed distribution of large boulders. That has caused some significant head-scratching among astronomers who are at a loss to explain where the boulders come from.

Now an international team has solved the mystery. They say the boulders float to the surface of asteroids in an astrophysical example of the Brazil nut effect. This is the long observed phenomenon in which shaking a mixture of big and small particles causes the larger ones to rise to the top. That's because the shaking creates gaps beneath the large particles that small particles fall into. The result is that the large particles float. The team simulated the shaking effect that collisions between asteroids would produce and say that these vibrations would cause large boulders to float to the surface in a few hours, finally explaining why asteroids have such boulder-strewn surfaces. Problem solved!
Space

SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Blasts Off From Florida 112

Posted by samzenpus
from the final-countdown dept.
An anonymous reader writes After two months of delays, SpaceX was successful today with its launch of six Orbcomm telecommunications satellites. All six satellites have been successfully deployed in orbit. The 375-pound satellites will offer two-way data links to help customers track, monitor and control transportation and logistics assets, heavy equipment, oil and gas infrastructure, ships and buoys, and government-owned equipment. From the article: "SpaceX plans to use Monday's launch to test a landing system it is developing to fly its rockets back to the launch site for refurbishment and reuse. During Falcon 9's last flight in April, the first stage successfully restarted some of its engines as it careened toward the ocean, slowing its descent. The rocket also was able to deploy stabilizing landing legs before toppling over in the water. The booster, however, was destroyed by rough seas before it could be retrieved by recovery ships. Monday's launch was the 10th flight of Falcon 9 rocket, all of which have been successful."
Science

Chemists Build First "Buckyball" Made of Boron 39

Posted by samzenpus
from the brand-new-balls dept.
CelestialScience writes Researchers have built the first "buckyballs" composed entirely of boron. Unlike the original, carbon-based buckyballs, the boron molecules are not shaped like soccer balls, with tessellating pentagons and hexagons. Instead, they are molecular cages made up of hexagons, heptagons and triangles. As Lai-Sheng Wang of Brown University and colleagues report in the journal Nature Chemistry, each one contains 40 atoms, compared with carbon buckyballs which are made of 60. Boron is not the first element after carbon to get "buckyballed", but the boron balls may be the closest analogue to the carbon variety. Because of their reactivity, they could be useful for storing hydrogen.
NASA

With New Horizons Spacecraft a Year Away, What We Know About Pluto 128

Posted by samzenpus
from the where-the-mi-go-and-the-terran-federation-play dept.
An anonymous reader writes In one year, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will reach Pluto after over 8 years of travel. "Not only did we choose the date, by the way, we chose the hour and the minute. And we're on track," says Alan Stern, the principal investigator for NASA's Pluto-Kuiper Belt Mission. As the New Horizons spacecraft gets closer to Pluto, we will begin getting the clearest images we've ever gotten. "A great deal of planning went into this mission. But in case you're wondering, the New Horizons team did not plan for Pluto to be downgraded to a dwarf planet in the same year as the launch. That didn't change anything for Alan Stern. Some planetary scientists still dispute Pluto's planet status, and Stern says he'll always think of Pluto as a planet. Either way, it's a distant realm ripe for exploration. Scientists don't know exactly what they will see there. And that's the exciting part. 'When we first sent missions to Jupiter, no one expected to find moons that would have active volcanoes. And I could go down a long list of how often I've been surprised by the richness of nature,' Stern says."

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