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Mars

Elon Musk Probably Won't Be the First Martian 167 167

pacopico writes: In a new biography on him, Elon Musk goes into gory details on his plans for colonizing Mars. The author of the book subsequently decided to run those plans by Andy Weir, the author of The Martian. Weir's book is famous for its technical acumen around getting to and from The Red Planet. His conclusion is that Musk's technology, which includes the biggest rocket ever built, is feasible — but that Musk will not be the first man on Mars. The interview also hits on the future of NASA and what we need to get to Mars. Good stuff. Weir says, "My estimate is that this will happen in 2050. NASA is saying more like 2035, but I don't have faith in Congress to fund them."
Biotech

Building the Face of a Criminal From DNA 59 59

Dave Knott writes: It sounds like science fiction, but revealing the face of a criminal based on their genes may be closer than we think. In a process known as molecular photo fitting, scientists are experimenting with using genetic markers from DNA to build up a picture of an offender's face. Dr. Peter Claes, a medical imaging specialist at the University of Leuven, has amassed a database of faces and corresponding DNA. Armed with this information, he is able to model how a face is constructed based on just 20 genes (this number will soon be expanded to 200). At the moment, police couldn't publish a molecular photo-fit like this and hope to catch a killer. But that's not how Dr. Claes sees the technique being used in a criminal investigation. "If I were to bring this result to an investigator, I wouldn't necessarily give him the image to broadcast. I would talk to him and say okay, you're looking for a woman, with a very specific chin and eyebrow structure."
The Internet

SpaceX and OneWeb -- Same Goal, Different Technology and Strategy 54 54

lpress writes: OneWeb has announced that Airbus will manufacture their Internet-connectivity satellites and told us more about their plans and progress. Both OneWeb and their competitor SpaceX have the same goal — global Internet connectivity and backhaul using satellite constellations, but their technologies and organizational strategies are different. SpaceX will use many more satellites than OneWeb, but they will be smaller, shorter-lived, cheaper and orbit at a lower altitude. They are also keeping more of the effort in-house. This is competitive capitalism at its best — let's hope both succeed.
NASA

Color Movie Made of Pluto-Charon System 41 41

VernonNemitz writes: Today NASA released a color movie of Pluto and its largest moon Charon, as the New Horizons probe approaches its July 2015 rendezvous date. "It's exciting to see Pluto and Charon in motion and in color," said New Horizons principal examiner Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) at Boulder, Colorado. "Even at this low resolution, we can see that Pluto and Charon have different colours - Pluto is beige-orange, while Charon is grey. Exactly why they are so different is the subject of debate," Stern said.
Science

General Mills To Drop Artificial Ingredients In Cereal 163 163

schwit1 writes: General Mills announced Monday that it will be removing artificial colors and flavoring from its cereal products over the next two to three years. The company said that Trix and Reese's Puffs will be some of the first cereals to undergo the changes adding that cereals like Lucky Charms that have marshmallows may take longer to reformulate. They say 90 percent of their cereals will have no artificial ingredients by the end of 2016. "We've continued to listen to consumers who want to see more recognizable and familiar ingredients on the labels and challenged ourselves to remove barriers that prevent adults and children from enjoying our cereals," said Jim Murphy, president of General Mills cereal division, in a statement.
Space

Mauna Kea Telescope Construction Slated To Resume 65 65

After an earlier halt to the work of constructing the "world's most advanced and powerful telescope" (and subsequent loss of support from an organization acting on behalf of native Hawaiians,) the Thirty Meter Telescope is again in "on again" mode. From the Associated Press article as carried by U.S. News & World Report: The Mauna Kea site provides a clear view of the sky for 300 days a year, with little air and light pollution. The telescope project was developed as a collaboration between U.S. and Canada universities and the national institutes of Japan, China and India. Gov. David Ige in April said the Thirty Meter Telescope board is legally entitled to "use its discretion to proceed with construction." He said he respected the rights of protesters to appeal in court.
Earth

3D Printing Might Save the Rhinoceros 163 163

GordonShure.com writes: San Francisco based biotech startup Pembient have released details of their 3D printing led method to derail the market for Rhinoceros horns. Presently the bulk of demand originates from China, where said horns — gathered in the wild by poachers who usually kill the rhinos — are revered for supposed medicinal qualities. The new firm intends to mix keratin with Rhino DNA, then machine the combination with a 3D printer in a way that their counterfeit horns are difficult to detect by customers and traffickers alike.

The company already mulls expanding its production principle to other, lucrative wild animal trades such as the claws of tigers and lions. Pembient is however a young company — for all their ingenuity, will their ambitions to take on such a colossal black market be realized?
Government

Is the End of Government Acceptance of Homeopathy In Sight? 666 666

cold fjord writes: It looks like homeopathy is in for a rough stretch ahead as shown in a chart and noted by Steven Novella at NEUROLoOGICAblog, "Homeopathy is perhaps the most obviously absurd medical pseudoscience. It is also widely studied, and has been clearly shown to not work. Further, there is a huge gap in the public understanding of what homeopathy is; it therefore seems plausible that the popularity of homeopathy can take a huge hit just by telling the public what it actually is. ... In 2010 the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee completed a full report on homeopathy in which they concluded it is witchcraft – that it cannot work, it does not work, and support for homeopathy in the national health service should be completely eliminated. In 2015 the Australian government completed its own review, concluding that there is no evidence that homeopathy works for anything. Homeopathy is a placebo. ... The FDA and the FTC in the United States are now both receiving testimony, questioning their current regulation of homeopathy. ... There is even a possibility that the FDA will decide to do their actual job – require testing of homeopathic products to demonstrate efficacy before allowing them on the market. If they do this simple and obvious thing, the homeopathic industry in the US will vanish over night, because there is no evidence to support any homeopathic product for any indication." — More on the FDA hearings at Science-Based Medicine.
Earth

Lawrence Krauss On the Pope's Encyclical: Not Even Close? 305 305

Lasrick writes: Lawrence Krauss muses on the hoopla surrounding Pope Francis' encyclical on climate change, and finds the document lacking: 'It is ironic that while the scientific community has long tried to raise warning signals and induce action to address human-induced climate change, an encyclical from the pope on this subject is being taken by many as an ultimate call to action on this urgent issue.'
Space

Plasma Resonance Could Overcome Radio Silence For Returning Spacecraft 62 62

Zothecula points out this article about a workaround for a long-standing problem with space-flight communications: some of the most cruicial time of a re-entry is also time when the craft cannot send data to or receive instructions from the ground controllers. From the article: Returning spacecraft hit the atmosphere at over five times the speed of sound, generating a sheath of superheated ionized plasma that blocks radio communications during the critical minutes of reentry. It's a problem that's vexed space agencies for decades, but researchers at China's Harbin Institute of Technology are developing a new method of piercing the plasma and maintaining communications. This means coupling the craft's antenna to that plasma sheath, "[causing] the sheath to act as an inductor. Together, they create a resonant circuit."
Medicine

The Science of Incivility 108 108

An anonymous reader writes: Stress causes health issues — we've known this for years. But what's harder to figure out is what exactly qualifies as stress. It's easy to understand that working as an EMT or police officer can be stressful. But as medical researchers are beginning to learn, minor stress events common to all workplaces eventually add up — the cumulative stress from workplace incivility can have huge consequences for both health and performance. "A study published in 2012 that tracked women for 10 years concluded that stressful jobs increased the risk of a cardiovascular event by 38 percent. ... In [another] study, the experimenter belittled the peer group of the participants, who then performed 33 percent worse on anagram word puzzles and came up with 39 percent fewer creative ideas during a brainstorming task focused on how they might use a brick." Many people brush off efforts to be civil, saying they have too little time, or too much on their mind. But further studies have shown it takes very little — a smile here and there, or the occasional "thank you" — to have surprisingly strong effects on how people are perceived. The article argues that it's worth the effort, given the costs for failure.
Space

Venus May Have Active Volcanoes 45 45

An anonymous reader writes: The European Space Agency's Venus Express spacecraft has discovered hot lava flows on the surface of Venus, providing the best evidence yet that the planet may have active volcanoes. "[U]sing a near-infrared channel of the spacecraft's Venus Monitoring Camera (VMC) to map thermal emission from the surface through a transparent spectral window in the planet's atmosphere, an international team of planetary scientists has spotted localized changes in surface brightness between images taken only a few days apart (abstract)." Venus is fairly similar to Earth in size and composition, which suggests it has an internal heat source. One of the biggest mysteries about Venus is how that heat escapes, and volcanic activity could be the answer.
Science

'Brain-to-Text' Interface Types Thoughts of Epileptic Patients 31 31

Jason Koebler writes with a link to Motherboard's article about research from the Schalk Lab of Albany, New York, where researchers "have just demonstrated for the first time that it's possible to turn a person's thoughts into a legible phrase using what they're calling a "brain-to-text" interface," writing "It's still still the early days of this technology—electrodes had to be placed directly on the brain and the 'dictionary' of phrases was limited. Still, brainwaves of thought patterns were turned into text at a rate much better than chance."
Medicine

Triggering a Mouse's Happy Memories With Lasers Gives It the Will To Struggle On 66 66

the_newsbeagle writes: With optogenetics, scientists can tag neurons with light-responsive proteins, and then trigger those neurons to "turn on" with the pulse of a light. In the latest application, MIT researchers used light to turn on certain neurons in male mice's hippocampi that were associated with a happy memory (coming into contact with female mice!), and then tested whether that artificially activated memory changed the mice's reactions to a stressful situation (being hung by their tails). Mice who got jolted with the happy memory struggled to get free for longer than the control mice. This tail-suspension test was developed to screen potential antidepressant drugs: If a rodent struggles longer before giving up, it's considered less depressed.
Space

Orbiting 'Rest Stops' Could Repair Crumbling Satellites 59 59

astroengine writes: Satellites are numerous, vital to many modern activities, and incredibly expensive to build and launch. They're constructed with redundancy and simplicity in mind because if something goes wrong after the satellite reaches orbit, we can't do much to help it. Now, NASA is talking about building an orbital service station that can perform maintenance, repair, and even refueling operations on these satellites. "Is there a way working with humans and robots together to extend the useful life of satellites, by fixing them and by not allowing fuel to spill out, but give it more propellant, close it up and send it on its way?," said Benjamin Reed, deputy director of the Satellite Servicing Program Office at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "Yes, We have the technologies to be able to do it."