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Earth

NASA Finds a Delaware-Sized Methane "Hot Spot" In the Southwest 213

Posted by samzenpus
from the it's-getting-hot-in-here dept.
merbs writes According to new satellite research from scientists at NASA and the University of Michigan this "hot spot" is "responsible for producing the largest concentration of the greenhouse gas methane seen over the United States—more than triple the standard ground-based estimate." It covers 2,500 square miles, about the size of Delaware. It is so big that scientists initially thought it was a mistake in their instruments. "We didn't focus on it because we weren't sure if it was a true signal or an instrument error," NASA's Christian Frankenberg said in a statement.
The Military

Air Force To Take Over Two Ex-Shuttle Hangers In Florida For Its X-37B Program 48

Posted by samzenpus
from the new-quarters-on-campus dept.
schwit1 writes In an effort to find tenants for its facilities, the Kennedy Space Center is going to rent two former shuttle processing hangers to Boeing for the Air Force's X-37B program. "NASA built three Orbiter Processing Facilities, or OPFs, to service its space shuttle fleet between missions. All three are located next to the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building at the Florida spaceport where Apollo Saturn 5 moon rockets and space shuttles were 'stacked' for launch. Under an agreement with NASA, Boeing will modify OPF bays 1 and 2 for the X-37B program, completing upgrades by the end of the year. The company already has an agreement with NASA to use OPF-3 and the shuttle engine shop in the VAB to assemble its CST-100 commercial crew craft being built to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The company says up to six capsules can be processed in the facility at the same time."
Medicine

Scientists Coax Human Embryonic Stem Cells Into Making Insulin 100

Posted by samzenpus
from the closer-to-the-cure dept.
First time accepted submitter kwiecmmm writes A group of Harvard scientists reported that they have figured out how to turn embryonic stem cells into beta cells capable of producing insulin. This discovery could cure diabetes. From the article: "'It's a huge landmark paper. I would say it's bigger than the discovery of insulin,' says Jose Olberholzer, a professor of bioengineering at the University of Illinois. 'The discovery of insulin was important and certainly saved millions of people, but it just allowed patients to survive but not really to have a normal life. The finding of Doug Melton would really allow to offer them really something what I would call a functional cure. You know, they really wouldn't feel anymore being diabetic if they got a transplant with those kind of cells.'"
Moon

Proposed Hab Module For Asteroid Redirect Mission Could Support a Lunar Return 55

Posted by timothy
from the moon-could-use-visitors dept.
MarkWhittington writes Space News reported on Wednesday that NASA is mulling a hab module as part of the Asteroid Redirect Mission. The inclusion of the hab module would extend the mission from 28 days to as long as 60 days. The module would provide enough consumables such as food, water, and oxygen and other support to sustain the crew of astronauts for weeks while examining a small asteroid in orbit around the moon. The module might also support a return to the lunar surface, given certain modifications.
Science

Carl Sagan, as "Mr. X," Extolled Benefits of Marijuana 263

Posted by timothy
from the what-about-neil-degrasse-tyson dept.
New submitter Colin Castro writes with an exceprt from the San Francisco Chronicle that reveals a different side of Carl Sagan: MarijuanaMajority.com founder Tom Angell spent a few days this summer in the Library of Congress researching the iconic American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist and author and has come away with a bounty. Angell says he found some never-before-released writings on marijuana policy from the author of classics such as 'Contact' and the TV show 'Cosmos', which is the most widely watched series in the history of American public television. ... I am convinced that there are genuine and valid levels of perception available with cannabis (and probably with other drugs) which are, through the defects of our society and our educational system, unavailable to us without such drugs,' Sagan wrote in 1971, under the name Mr. X.
Science

No Nobel For Nick Holonyak Jr, Father of the LED 276

Posted by timothy
from the only-the-blue-baby-gets-the-prize dept.
szotz writes Nick Holonyak Jr. doesn't want to go gently into that good night. Widely regarded as the father of the LED (for his work on early visible-light devices), he's been making strongly-worded comments about being passed over for the Nobel Prize. His wife said he'd given up on getting it. But, he says, this year's physics award, to inventors of the blue LED, was just plain 'insulting'. The history the LED goes beyond and back further than Holonyak (all the way to the beginning of the 20th century), but a number of his colleagues are disappointed and/or surprised by the snub.
Mars

MIT Study Finds Fault With Mars One Colony Concept 269

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-mars-for-you dept.
MarkWhittington writes The Mars One project created a great deal of fanfare when it was first announced in 2012. The project, based in Holland, aspires to build a colony on Mars with the first uncrewed flight taking place in 2018 and the first colonists setting forth around 2024. The idea is that the colonists would go to Mars to stay, slowly building up the colony in four-person increments every 26-month launch window. However, Space Policy Online on Tuesday reported that an independent study conducted by MIT has poured cold water on the Mars colony idea. The MIT team consisting of engineering students had to make a number of assumptions based on public sources since the Mars One concept lacks a great many technical details. The study made the bottom line conclusion that the Mars One project is overly optimistic at best and unworkable at worst. The concept is "unsustainable" given the current state of technology and the aggressive schedule that the Mars One project has presented.
The Courts

Chimpanzee "Personhood" Is Back In Court 385

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-wanna-be-like-you-hoo-hoo dept.
sciencehabit writes Chimpanzees are back in court. Judges in New York State heard the first in a series of appeals attempting to grant "legal personhood" to the animals. The case is part of a larger effort by an animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) to free a variety of creatures—from research chimps to aquarium dolphins—from captivity. If the case is successful, it could grant personhood to chimps throughout the state.
Science

Co-Founder of PayPal Peter Thiel: Society Is Hostile To Science and Technology 238

Posted by samzenpus
from the burn-the-witch dept.
dcblogs writes Peter Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal, billionaire investor and author, says "we live in a financial, capitalistic age, we do not live in a scientific or technological age. We live in a period where people generally dislike science and technology. Our culture dislikes it, our government dislikes it. The easiest way to see "how hostile our society is to technology" is to look at Hollywood. Movies "all show technology that doesn't work, that ... kills people, that it is bad for the world," said Thiel. He argues that corporations and the U.S. government are failing at complex planning.
Medicine

Texas Ebola Patient Dies 487

Posted by samzenpus
from the patient-zero dept.
BarbaraHudson writes Thomas Duncan, the ebola patient being treated in Texas, has died. "It is with profound sadness and heartfelt disappointment that we must inform you of the death of Thomas Eric Duncan this morning at 7:51 am," hospital spokesman Wendell Watson said in an emailed statement. If he had survived, he could have faced criminal charges in both the US and Liberia for saying on an airport screening questionnaire that he had had no contact with an Ebola patient. UPDATE: Reports of a possible second Ebola victim in Texas are coming in. From the article: "The patient was identified as Sgt. Michael Monning, a deputy who accompanied county health officials Zachary Thompson and Christopher Perkins into the apartment where Thomas Eric Duncan stayed in Dallas. The deputy was ordered to go inside the unit with officials to get a quarantine order signed. No one who went inside the unit that day wore protective gear."
Science

Killer Whales Caught On Tape Speaking Dolphin 152

Posted by samzenpus
from the losing-the-accent dept.
sciencehabit writes Two years ago, scientists showed that dolphins imitate the sounds of whales. Now, it seems, whales have returned the favor. Researchers analyzed the vocal repertoires of 10 captive orcas, three of which lived with bottlenose dolphins and the rest with their own kind. Of the 1551 vocalizations these seven latter orcas made, more than 95% were the typical pulsed calls of killer whales. In contrast, the three orcas that had only dolphins as pals busily whistled and emitted dolphinlike click trains and terminal buzzes, the scientists report in the October issue of The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. The findings make orcas one of the few species of animals that, like humans, is capable of vocal learning (video)—a talent considered a key underpinning of language."
Power

Fusion Reactor Concept Could Be Cheaper Than Coal 315

Posted by samzenpus
from the some-day-soon dept.
vinces99 writes Fusion energy almost sounds too good to be true – zero greenhouse gas emissions, no long-lived radioactive waste, a nearly unlimited fuel supply. Perhaps the biggest roadblock to adopting fusion energy is that the economics haven't penciled out. Fusion power designs aren't cheap enough to outperform systems that use fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas. University of Washington engineers hope to change that. They have designed a concept for a fusion reactor that, when scaled up to the size of a large electrical power plant, would rival costs for a new coal-fired plant with similar electrical output. The team published its reactor design and cost-analysis findings last spring and will present results Oct. 17 at the International Atomic Energy Agency's Fusion Energy Conference in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Medicine

Ebola Vaccine Trials Forcing Tough Choices 178

Posted by Soulskill
from the do-you-feel-lucky,-punk? dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Medical researchers hope an experimental vaccine for Ebola can help protect against infection and slow the spread of the disease. Efficacy trials for the vaccine begin in a few months, and it's forcing some difficult decisions for health care officials. The first test will involve front line health care workers, who, as a group, are at the gravest risk of infection. But every trial needs a control group, and scientists are bitterly divided over whether the vaccine should be withheld from a portion of those putting their lives on the line to protect the rest of us. Development of the vaccine has been vastly accelerated already, due to the virus's spread and its mortality rate.

"The leading alternative is a design known as step-wedge, which essentially uses time to create a control group. In this design, researchers take advantage of the inescapable reality that large-scale trials can't give everyone the vaccine on the exact same date; they compare the rates of infection in people already vaccinated with those who have yet to receive the shots. Barney Graham, a virologist ... says "people are more comfortable" with the step-wedge design, because everyone in such a study would get the Ebola vaccine. But statistically speaking, this design makes it more difficult to determine the vaccine's worth, and it takes longer." NY Mag has a related story summarizing the treatments currently being used to fight Ebola.
Science

Nobel Prize In Chemistry Awarded To Trio For Microscope Advancement 29

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-small-or-go-home dept.
The 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to Eric Betzig, Stefan W. Hell, and William E. Moerner for their work in bypassing the limits of traditional optical microscopy. Hell developed a method called Simulated Emission Depletion microscopy, which uses one laser beam to cause a collection of molecules to fluoresce, and another laser beam to cancel out that fluorescence everywhere other than a nanometer-sized volume. Repeating this process over an entire sample provides nanometer resolution for the resulting image. Betzig and Moerner did important work on Single-Molecule microscopy. "The method relies upon the possibility to turn the fluorescence of individual molecules on and off. Scientists image the same area multiple times, letting just a few interspersed molecules glow each time. Superimposing these images yields a dense super-image resolved at the nanolevel." The three scientists' work was pivotal to enabling nano-scale microscopy and allowing detailed study of objects at the molecular level.
Earth

NASA Study: Ocean Abyss Has Not Warmed 295

Posted by Soulskill
from the blame-the-aliens-and-ed-harris dept.
submitter bigwheel sends this excerpt from a NASA news release: The cold waters of Earth's deep ocean have not warmed measurably since 2005, according to a new NASA study, leaving unsolved the mystery of why global warming appears to have slowed in recent years. Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, analyzed satellite and direct ocean temperature data from 2005 to 2013 and found the ocean abyss below 1.24 miles (1,995 meters) has not warmed measurably. Study coauthor Josh Willis of JPL said these findings do not throw suspicion on climate change itself. "The sea level is still rising," Willis noted. "We're just trying to understand the nitty-gritty details."
Education

Glut of Postdoc Researchers Stirs Quiet Crisis In Science 283

Posted by Soulskill
from the opportunity-cost dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Carolyn Johnson reports in the Boston Globe that in recent years, the position of postdoctoral researcher has become less a stepping stone and more of a holding tank. Postdocs are caught up in an all-but-invisible crisis, mired in an underclass as federal funding for research has leveled off, leaving the supply of well-trained scientists outstripping demand. "It's sunk in that it's by no means guaranteed — for anyone, really — that an academic position is possible," says Gary McDowell, a 29-year old biologist doing his second postdoc. "There's this huge labor force here to do the bench work, the grunt work of science. But then there's nowhere for them to go; this massive pool of postdocs that accumulates and keeps growing." The problem is that any researcher running a lab today is training far more people than there will ever be labs to run. Often these supremely well-educated trainees are simply cheap laborers, not learning skills for the careers where they are more likely to find jobs. This wasn't such an issue decades ago, but universities have expanded the number of PhD students they train from about 30,000 biomedical graduate students in 1979 to 56,800 in 2009, flooding the system with trainees and drawing out the training period.

Possible solutions span a wide gamut, from halving the number of postdocs over time, to creating a new tier of staff scientists that would be better paid. One thing people seem to agree on is that simply adding more money to the pot will not by itself solve the oversupply. Facing these stark statistics, postdocs are taking matters into their own hands, recently organizing a Future of Research conference in Boston that they hoped would give voice to their frustrations and hopes and help shape change. They ask, "How can we, as the next generation, run the system?"
Space

Send Your Own Radiosonde 90,000 Feet Into the Sky (Video) 48

Posted by Roblimo
from the gonna-take-you-higher dept.
Radiosonde, weather balloon, near-space exploration package... call it what you will, but today's interviewee, Jamel Tayeb, is hanging instrument packages and cameras below balloons and sending them up to 97,000 feet (his highest so far), then recovering them 50 or 60 miles away from their liftoff points with help from a locator beacon -- and not just any locator beacon, mind you, but a special one from a company called High Altitude Science with "unlocked" firmware that allows it to work with GPS satellites from altitudes greater than 60,000 feet, which typical, off-the-shelf GPS units can't do.

Here's a balloon launch video from Instructure, a company that helps create open source education systems. The point of their balloon work (and Jamel's) is not that they get to boast about what they're doing, but so you and people like you say, "I can make a functioning high altitude weather balloon system with instrumentation and a decent camera for only $1000?" This is a lot of money for an individual, but for a high school science program it's not an impossible amount. And who knows? You might break the current high-altitude balloon record of 173,900 feet. Another, perhaps more attainable record is PARIS (Paper Aircraft Released Into Space) which is currently 96,563 feet. Beyond that? Perhaps you'll want to take a crack at beating Felix Baumgartner's high altitude skydiving and free fall records. And once you are comfortable working with near space launches, perhaps you'll move on to outer space work, where you'll join Elon Musk and other space transportation entrepreneurs. (Alternate Video Link)
Science

Biofeedback Used To Make People Anxious 33

Posted by timothy
from the now-which-agencies-could-use-that dept.
vrml (3027321) writes Biofeedback is well-known as a relaxation technique, but the HCI Lab of the University of Udine has tried to use it for the opposite purpose: making people anxious. The technique, described by a paper in the November 2014 issue of the Interacting with Computers journal, exploits heartbeat detection. While users navigated a 3D world, the computer detected and played their actual heartbeat (users were not told it was theirs) in the audio background of the virtual world. At a couple of times during the experience, the application artificially increased the frequency of the played heartbeat and then reverted it to the actual one after some seconds. The study described in the paper contrasts the technique with aversive stimuli frequently used in video games when the character gets hurt such as decreasing health bars or increasing the frequency of an heartbeat sound that is not related to the user's actual heartbeat. The biofeedback-based technique produced much larger (subjective as well as physiological) levels of user anxiety than those classic aversive stimuli.
Science

First Teleportation of Multiple Quantum Properties of a Single Photon 107

Posted by timothy
from the you-stay-here-I'll-pass-the-message dept.
KentuckyFC writes Photons have many properties, such as their frequency, momentum, spin and orbital angular momentum. But when it comes to quantum teleportation, physicists have only ever been able to to transmit one of these properties at a time. So the possibility of teleporting a complete quantum object has always seemed a distant dream. Now a team of Chinese physicists has worked out how to teleport more than one quantum property. The team has demonstrated it by teleporting both the spin and orbital angular momentum of single photons simultaneously. They point out that there is no reason in principle why the technique cannot be generalized to include other properties as well, such as a photon's frequency, momentum and so on. That's an important step towards teleporting complex quantum objects in their entirety, such as atoms, molecules and perhaps even small viruses.
Japan

2014 Nobel Prize In Physics Awarded To the Inventors of the Blue LED 243

Posted by timothy
from the changing-the-color-of-server-rooms-everywhere dept.
grouchomarxist writes with word that "The 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura, the inventors of the blue LED." From the organization's press release: When Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura produced bright blue light beams from their semi-conductors in the early 1990s, they triggered a fundamental transformation of lighting technology. Red and green diodes had been around for a long time but without blue light, white lamps could not be created. Despite considerable efforts, both in the scientific community and in industry, the blue LED had remained a challenge for three decades. They succeeded where everyone else had failed. Akasaki worked together with Amano at the University of Nagoya, while Nakamura was employed at Nichia Chemicals, a small company in Tokushima. Their inventions were revolutionary. Incandescent light bulbs lit the 20th century; the 21st century will be lit by LED lamps. White LED lamps emit a bright white light, are long-lasting and energy-efficient. They are constantly improved, getting more efficient with higher luminous flux (measured in lumen) per unit electrical input power (measured in watt). The most recent record is just over 300 lm/W, which can be compared to 16 for regular light bulbs and close to 70 for fluorescent lamps. As about one fourth of world electricity consumption is used for lighting purposes, the LEDs contribute to saving the Earth's resources. Materials consumption is also diminished as LEDs last up to 100,000 hours, compared to 1,000 for incandescent bulbs and 10,000 hours for fluorescent lights. The LED lamp holds great promise for increasing the quality of life for over 1.5 billion people around the world who lack access to electricity grids: due to low power requirements it can be powered by cheap local solar power.

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