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Mars

The Strangeness of the Mars One Project 246

Posted by Soulskill
from the volunteer-space-travel dept.
superboj sends an article written after its author investigated the Mars One Project for over a year. Even though 200,000 people have (supposedly) signed up as potential volunteers on a one-way trip to Mars, there are still frightfully few details about how the mission will be accomplished. From the article: [Astronaut Chris Hadfield] says that Mars One fails at even the most basic starting point of any manned space mission: If there are no specifications for the craft that will carry the crew, if you don’t know the very dimensions of the capsule they will be traveling in, you can’t begin to select the people who will be living and working inside of it. "I really counsel every single one of the people who is interested in Mars One, whenever they ask me about it, to start asking the hard questions now. I want to see the technical specifications of the vehicle that is orbiting Earth. I want to know: How does a space suit on Mars work? Show me how it is pressurized, and how it is cooled. What’s the glove design? None of that stuff can be bought off the rack. It does not exist. You can’t just go to SpaceMart and buy those things." The author concludes that the Mars One Project is "...at best, an amazingly hubristic fantasy: an absolute faith in the free market, in technology, in the media, in money, to be able to somehow, magically, do what thousands of highly qualified people in government agencies have so far not yet been able to do over decades of diligently trying, making slow headway through individually hard-won breakthroughs, working in relative anonymity pursuing their life’s work."
The Courts

Manslaughter Conviction Overturned For Scientists Who Didn't Predict Earthquake 139

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-their-crystal-ball-has-been-confiscated dept.
Jason Koebler writes: Geologists who didn't warn a town about an impending earthquake are not murderers, an Italian appeals court ruled today. A 2012 decision that rocked the scientific world has been overturned, according to Italy's Repubblica newspapers and confirmed by other Italian outlets. In that decision, six prominent geologists and one government worker were convicted of manslaughter for failing to notify the town of L'Aquila of a 2009 earthquake that killed at least 309 people. The scientists were originally sentenced to six years in prison and were to pay more than $10 million in damages.
Math

The Math Behind the Hipster Effect 176

Posted by samzenpus
from the we're-all-individuals dept.
rossgneumann writes If everyone always wants to look different than everybody else, everybody starts looking the same. At least, if you use a recently published mathematical model describing the phenomenon. "The hipster effect is this non-concerted emergent collective phenomenon of looking alike trying to look different," in the words of Jonathan Touboul, mathematical neuroscientist at the College de France in Paris.
NASA

NASA Tests Aircraft With Shape Shifting Wings 55

Posted by samzenpus
from the a-shape-for-all-occasions dept.
Zothecula writes In January, we first heard about FlexFoil; a variable geometry airfoil system that seamlessly integrates into the trailing edge of the wing. During the year the system has made the leap from the test bench to the sky, with NASA conducting tests of the FlexFoil on a modified Gulfstream III business jet.
Science

A/C Came Standard On Some Armored Dinosaur Models 34

Posted by samzenpus
from the keeping-it-cool dept.
An anonymous reader writes In a new study, paleontologists revealed that armor–plated Ankylosaurs had an exceptional capability to change the temperature of the air they breathed with the help of their long, winding nasal passages. From the article: "Led by paleontologist Jason Bourke, a team of scientists at Ohio University used CT scans to document the anatomy of nasal passages in two different ankylosaur species. The team then modeled airflow through 3D reconstructions of these tubes. Bourke found that the convoluted passageways would have given the inhaled air more time and more surface area to warm up to body temperature by drawing heat away from nearby blood vessels. As a result, the blood would be cooled, and shunted to the brain to keep its temperature stable."
Medicine

Scientists Discover a Virus That Changes the Brain To "Make Humans More Stupid" 275

Posted by samzenpus
from the dumb-bug dept.
concertina226 writes that researchers have found a virus that appears to reduce people’s thinking power and attention span. "Scientists at the Johns Hopkins Medical School and the University of Nebraska have discovered an algae virus that makes us more stupid by infecting our brains. The researchers were conducting a completely unrelated study into throat microbes when they realized that DNA in the throats of healthy people matched the DNA of a chlorovirus virus known as ATCV-1. ATCV-1 is a virus that infects the green algae found in freshwater lakes and ponds. It had previously been thought to be non-infectious to humans, but the scientists found that it actually affects cognitive functions in the brain by shortening attention span and causing a decrease in spatial awareness. For the first time ever, the researchers proved that microorganisms have the ability to trigger delicate physiological changes to the human body, without launching a full-blown attack on the human immune system."
Biotech

Study: Body Weight Heavily Influenced By Heritable Gut Microbes 297

Posted by samzenpus
from the passing-it-on dept.
FirephoxRising writes Our genetic makeup influences whether we are fat or thin by shaping which types of microbes thrive in our body, according to a new study. Scientists identified a specific, little known bacterial family that is highly heritable and more common in individuals with low body weight. So we are what we eat, and what we got from out parents. From the article: "The study, funded by National Institutes of Health (NIH), researchers sequenced the genes of microbes found in more than 1,000 fecal samples from 416 pairs of twins. The abundances of specific types of microbes were found to be more similar in identical twins, who share 100 per cent of their genes, than in non-identical twins, who share on average only half of the genes that vary between people. These findings demonstrate that genes influence the composition of gut microbes."
Earth

Nevada Earthquake Swarm Increases Chance of Larger Quake 65

Posted by samzenpus
from the whole-lot-of-shaking-going-on dept.
An anonymous reader writes Hundreds of small earthquakes have been gaining in strength in northwestern Nevada. The Nevada region bordering California and Oregon was hit by 18 quakes in less than 24 hours, with magnitudes measuring from 2.7 to 4.5. According to CNN: "This does not necessarily mean a big one will come, state seismologists said, but they added that it's good to be prepared, just in case. Seismologists refer to such quake groupings as swarms, and the U.S. Geological Survey has detected them regularly. They can produce thousands of small tremors."
Science

Prehistory's Brilliant Future 50

Posted by samzenpus
from the what's-old-is-new dept.
An anonymous reader writes Senior Vice President and Provost of Science at the American Museum of Natural History Michael J. Novacek has written an op-ed piece about the glut of new dinosaurs recently discovered, including a fish fossil with flexible limbs which documents the transition from life in the water to life on land. In addition to the new species, a team has recently published its work on new skeletal remains of Spinosaurus, a 100-million-year-old carnivore. From the article: "As with any frontier of new knowledge, there are challenges as well as opportunities. Certain regions of the world, like North Africa, may hold the key to understanding the evolution of major groups, but remain poorly explored. Even as some regions become accessible thanks to political change, others can turn into conflict zones. Illegal fossil poaching is rampant in many areas and needs to be controlled before it does untold damage to our future knowledge. It is all the more important to deal with these challenges when we consider the unique contribution of paleontological evidence to human knowledge. From our study of living species, we could not have been predicted the existence of dragonflies as big as sea gulls or dinosaurs with the bulk of large whales that could support themselves on land. Such discoveries provide insights about the capacity of organisms to evolve, adapt and survive."
United States

The Military's Latest Enemy: Climate Change 163

Posted by samzenpus
from the it's-getting-hot-in-here dept.
Lasrick writes A surprising report from the Pentagon last month places climate change squarely among the seemingly endless concerns of the US military. Although a Wall Street Journal editorial misrepresented the report in an editorial (subtitled 'Hagel wants to retool the military to stop glaciers from melting'), the report itself is straightforward and addresses practical military issues such as land management of bases and training facilities. "So, this plan is not really about mobilizing against melting glaciers; it's more like making sure our ships have viable facilities from which to launch bombs against ISIS. And the report doesn't just focus on home, though. It casts a wider eye towards how a changing climate will affect defense missions in the future."
NASA

Orbiters Study Effect of Giant Comet-Caused Meteor Shower On Mars 48

Posted by samzenpus
from the sky-is-falling dept.
An anonymous reader writes According to observations made by NASA and ESA orbiters, the extremely close flyby of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring to Mars was accompanied by a meteor shower larger than any seen on Earth. NASA said that dust from Comet Siding Spring vaporized high up in the Martian atmosphere, producing "an impressive meteor shower." An observer on Mars surface might have seen thousands of shooting stars per hour. "This historic event allowed us to observe the details of this fast-moving Oort Cloud comet in a way never before possible using our existing Mars missions," Jim Green, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division at the agency's Headquarters in Washington, said in the statement.
Science

Researchers Develop Remote-Controlled Cyber-Roaches 35

Posted by samzenpus
from the bug-and-rescue dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a series of remote-controlled cyber-roaches that could aid in future disaster relief efforts. The cockroaches are strapped to circuit boards and microphones, which they carry around. The circuits control the movements of each roach, and the microphone is capable of detecting environmental sounds and their sources. "In a collapsed building, sound is the best way to find survivors," said Dr. Alper Bozkurt, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at North Carolina State University and senior author of two papers on the work."
Science

CERN May Not Have Discovered Higgs Boson After All 137

Posted by samzenpus
from the not-so-fast dept.
An anonymous reader writes Physicists Peter Higgs and Francois Englert won the Nobel Prize for discovering the Higgs Boson, but some scientists believe that the particle may not have been discovered yet at all. A new study by a group of scientists from the University of Southern Denmark raises the possibility that the data collected from the Large Hadron Collider could instead explain another type of subatomic particle. Mads Toudal Frandsen, a particle physicist, explained in a statement, "The CERN data is generally taken as evidence that the particular particle is the Higgs particle ... It is true that the Higgs particle can explain the data but there can be other explanations, we would also get this data from other particles."
Medicine

Researchers Direct Growth of Neurons With Silicon Nitride Microtubes 23

Posted by Soulskill
from the superbrain-under-construction dept.
MTorrice writes: Bioengineers want to connect electronics and neurons to make devices such as new cochlear implants or prosthetic limbs with a seemingly natural sense of touch. They also could build synthetic neural circuitry to use to study how the brain processes information or what goes wrong in neurodegenerative diseases.

As a step toward these applications, a team of researchers has developed a way to direct the growth of axons, the connection-forming arms of neurons. They use transparent silicon nitride microtubes on glass slides to encourage the cells' axons to grow in specific directions. The cultured nerve cells grow aimlessly until they bump into one of the tubes. The axon then enters the tube, and its growth is accelerated 20-fold. Silicon nitride already is used in some orthopedic devices, and could serve as a substrate for electronics to interface with the growing neurons.
Supercomputing

Researchers Simulate Monster EF5 Tornado 61

Posted by Soulskill
from the any-way-the-wind-blows dept.
New submitter Orp writes: I am the member of a research team that created a supercell thunderstorm simulation that is getting a lot of attention. Presented at the 27th Annual Severe Local Storms Conference in Madison, Wisconsin, Leigh Orf's talk was produced entirely as high def video and put on YouTube shortly after the presentation. In the simulation, the storm's updraft is so strong that it essentially peels rain-cooled air near the surface upward and into the storm's updraft, which appears to play a key role in maintaining the tornado. The simulation was based upon the environment that produced the May 24, 2011 outbreak which included a long-track EF5 tornado near El Reno Oklahoma (not to be confused with the May 31, 2013 EF5 tornado that killed three storm researchers).
Science

fMRI Data Reveals How Many Parallel Processes Run In the Brain 91

Posted by Soulskill
from the still-won't-run-crysis dept.
New submitter xgeorgio writes: From MIT Technology Review: "The human brain carries out many tasks at the same time, but how many? Now fMRI data has revealed just how parallel gray matter is. ... Although the analysis is complex, the outcome is simple to state. Georgiou says independent component analysis reveals that about 50 independent processes are at work in human brains performing the complex visuo-motor tasks of indicating the presence of green and red boxes. However, the brain uses fewer processes when carrying out simple tasks, like visual recognition.

That's a fascinating result that has important implications for the way computer scientists should design chips intended to mimic human performance. It implies that parallelism in the brain does not occur on the level of individual neurons but on a much higher structural and functional level, and that there are about 50 of these. 'This means that, in theory, an artificial equivalent of a brain-like cognitive structure may not require a massively parallel architecture at the level of single neurons, but rather a properly designed set of limited processes that run in parallel on a much lower scale,' he concludes." Here's a link to the full paper: "Estimating the intrinsic dimension in fMRI space via dataset fractal analysis – Counting the `cpu cores' of the human brain."
Science

When We Don't Like the Solution, We Deny the Problem 282

Posted by Soulskill
from the having-problems-is-not-a-problem dept.
Ichijo writes: A new study (abstract) from Duke University tested whether the desirability of a solution affects beliefs in the existence of the associated problem. Researchers found that 'yes, people will deny the problem when they don't like the solution. Quoting: "Participants in the experiment, including both self-identified Republicans and Democrats, read a statement asserting that global temperatures will rise 3.2 degrees in the 21st century. They were then asked to evaluate a proposed policy solution to address the warming. When the policy solution emphasized a tax on carbon emissions or some other form of government regulation, which is generally opposed by Republican ideology, only 22 percent of Republicans said they believed the temperatures would rise at least as much as indicated by the scientific statement they read.

But when the proposed policy solution emphasized the free market, such as with innovative green technology, 55 percent of Republicans agreed with the scientific statement. The researchers found liberal-leaning individuals exhibited a similar aversion to solutions they viewed as politically undesirable in an experiment involving violent home break-ins. When the proposed solution called for looser versus tighter gun-control laws, those with more liberal gun-control ideologies were more likely to downplay the frequency of violent home break-ins."
The Internet

Elon Musk's Next Mission: Internet Satellites 74

Posted by Soulskill
from the next-billion dept.
An anonymous reader writes: According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Elon Musk is looking at a new project: smaller, cheaper satellites that can provide internet access for people all across the world. "Mr. Musk is working with Greg Wyler, a satellite-industry veteran and former Google Inc. executive, these people said. Mr. Wyler founded WorldVu Satellites Ltd., which controls a large block of radio spectrum. In talks with industry executives, Messrs. Musk and Wyler have discussed launching around 700 satellites, each weighing less than 250 pounds, the people said. That is about half the size of the smallest communications satellites now in commercial use. The satellite constellation would be 10 times the size of the largest current fleet, managed by Iridium Communications Inc. ... The smallest communications satellites now weigh under 500 pounds and cost several million dollars each. WorldVu hopes to bring the cost of manufacturing smaller models under $1 million, according to two people familiar with its plans."
NASA

NASA Pondering $1.5 Million Stratospheric Airship Competition 47

Posted by Soulskill
from the to-boldly-go-where-skydivers-have-gone-before dept.
coondoggie writes: NASA this week said it was contemplating a public competition to build airships capable of reaching the stratosphere where they could remain for a period of time gathering astronomical data or watching environmental changes on the ground. Airship Challenge's goals (PDF) include: a minimum altitude of 20km, maintained for 20 hours; successful return of payload data as well as cargo up to 20kg; and a demonstration of the airship's scalability for longer/larger missions.
Space

The Largest Kuiper Belt Object Isn't Pluto Or Eris, But Triton 61

Posted by Soulskill
from the also-not-a-planet dept.
StartsWithABang writes: Out beyond Neptune, the last of our Solar System's gas giants, the icy graveyard of failed planetesimals lurks: the Kuiper Belt. Among these mixes of ice, snow, dust and rock are a number of worlds — possibly a few hundred — massive enough to pull themselves into hydrostatic equilibrium. The most famous among them are Pluto, the first one ever discovered, and Eris, of comparable size but undoubtedly more massive. But there's an even larger, more massive object from the Kuiper Belt than either of these, yet you never hear about it: it's Triton, the largest moon of Neptune, a true Kuiper Belt object!

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