spineas writes "A 4.5-foot-wide asteroid struck the moon in September 2013, and astronomers were lucky enough to catch the impact flash on video, now confirmed as the brightest ever witnessed from Earth. The Orlando Sentinel reports that the asteroid likely weighed nearly 900 pounds, and exploded on impact with the moon with the force of 15 tons of TNT."
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bfwebster writes "During the past few years, I served as an IT expert witness in BanxCorp v. Costco et al., in which BanxCorp sued Costco and Capital One for citing (with credit) its web-published national averages for CD and money market rates in their advertising. Judge Kenneth M. Karas issued his summary judgment opinion last fall, finding that BanxCorp's published averages are 'uncopyrightable facts' due to the simple calculation involved and the lack of ongoing human judgment in what banks were involved. Here is my summary of his findings, along with a link to the actual ruling."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Jorge Cham, author of the comic strip Ph.D. comics, recently found himself on a bus crossing the Israel-Jordan border sitting next to Eilam Gross, head of the Atlas Higgs Group, one of the two groups that found the famous particle. When Cham asked Gross for feedback on the Higgs Boson animation he had done last year, Gross told Cham 'It's all wrong' and noted that he had yet to see a truly correct explanation of what the the Higgs Boson is. For the next three hours Gross, also known as the 'Mick Jagger of physics,' told Cham the story of the Higgs Boson and asked him to put it into a new comic strip. The result is a new comic re-explaining the Higgs Boson. 'So how does this explain things like inertia?' 'That's another bus ride.' As an interesting side note Gross was once asked what Higgs was good for and replied that when [J.J.] Thomson discovered the electron, in 1895, he raised a glass of champagne and proposed a toast 'to the useless electron.'"
astroengine writes with news of SpaceX's next step in experimenting with vertical landings for rocket stages. From the article: "Space Exploration Technologies is installing landing legs on its next Falcon 9 rocket, part of an ongoing quest to develop boosters that fly themselves back to the launch site for reuse. For the upcoming demonstration, scheduled for March 16, the Falcon 9's first stage will splash down, as usual, in the ocean after liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. This time, however, SpaceX hopes to cushion the rocket's destructive impact into the Atlantic Ocean by restarting the Falcon 9's engine and extending landing legs that will be attached to the booster's aft section. The goal is a soft touchdown on the water." The test is scheduled for their ISS resupply mission on March 16th 2014 (the mission also features the launch of the crowdfunded KickSat nano nanosatellites) .
Zothecula writes "Many organizations around the world are looking at ways to harness the power of waves as a renewable energy source, but none are covering quite the same ground as a team of engineers from the University of California (UC), Berkeley. The seafloor carpet, a system inspired by the wave absorbing abilities of a muddy seabed, has taken exploring the potential of wave power to some intriguing new depths."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Exxon Mobile's CEO Rex Tillerson's day job is to do all he can to protect and nurture the process of hydraulic fracturing—aka 'fracking'—so that his company can continue to rake in billions via the production and sale of natural gas. 'This type of dysfunctional regulation is holding back the American economic recovery, growth, and global competitiveness,' said Tillerson in 2012 of attempts to increase oversight of drilling operations. But now Rick Unger reports at Forbes that Tillerson has joined a lawsuit seeking to shut down a fracking project near his Texas ranch. Why? Because the 160 foot water tower being built next to Tillerson's house that will supply the water to the near-by fracking site, means the arrival of loud trucks, an ugly tower next door, and the general unpleasantness that will interfere with the quality of his life and the real estate value of his sizeable ranch. The water tower is being built by Cross Timbers Water Supply Corp., a nonprofit utility that has supplied water to the region for half a century. Cross Timbers says that it is required by state law to build enough capacity to serve growing demand. In 2011, Bartonville denied Cross Timbers a permit to build the water tower, saying the location was reserved for residences. The water company sued, arguing that it is exempt from municipal zoning because of its status as a public utility. In May 2012, a state district court judge agreed with Cross Timbers and compelled the town to issue a permit. The utility resumed construction as the town appealed the decision. Later that year, the Tillersons and their co-plaintiffs sued Cross Timbers, saying that the company had promised them it wouldn't build a tower near their properties. An Exxon spokesman said Tillerson declined to comment. The company 'has no involvement in the legal matter' and its directors weren't told of Mr. Tillerson's participation, the spokesman said."
An anonymous reader writes "Using computations on the massive near-global SRTM surface model from NASA, this map lets you query watersheds, interactively set the sea-level and flood the world (North America at 500m increase in sea-level), or play around with river thresholds on a global or regional scale (computed rivers around NYC/NJ). It can be used to get an understanding of the watersheds and water flow paths in your local neighborhood; do you know where rain (or pollutants) that falls in your backyard end up? The map is freely available to the public."
SpamSlapper writes "Australia's ABC Science reports that ancient zircon crystals discovered in Western Australia have been positively dated to 4.374 billion years, confirming their place as the oldest rock ever found on Earth, according to a new study. The research reported in the journal Nature Geoscience, means Earth began forming a crust far sooner than previously thought, following the giant impact event which created the Earth-Moon system 4.5 billion years ago."
littlesparkvt writes "Harnessing the sun's power is nothing new on Earth, but if a Japanese company has its way, it will build a solar strip across the 11,000 mile Lunar equator that could supply our world with clean and unlimited solar energy for generations." Some of the company's other projects look just as ambitious.
__roo writes "Herbicides used in Vietnam in the 1970s still pose a threat to servicemen, according to a study published Friday. The U.S. Air Force and Department of Veteran Affairs denied benefits to sick veterans, taking the position that any dioxin or other components of Agent Orange contaminating its fleet of C-123 cargo planes would have been 'dried residues' and unlikely to pose meaningful exposure risks. According to the lead researcher, 'The VA, whether out of ignorance or malice, has denied the entire existence of this entire branch of science. They have this preposterous idea that somehow there is this other kind of state of matter — a dried residue that is completely inert.' To show that such exposures happened, her research team had to be 'very clever.'"
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Chris Parnin has an interesting read about an international team of scientists lead by Dr. Janet Siegmund using brain imaging with fMRI to understand the programmer's mind and to compare and contrast different cognitive tasks used in programming by analyzing differences in brain locations that are activated by different tasks. One recent debate illuminated by their studies is recent legislation that considers offering foreign-language credits for students learning programming languages. There have been many strong reactions across the software-developer community. Some developers consider the effort laudable but misguided and proclaim programming is not at all like human language and is much closer to mathematics. Siegmund observed 17 participants inside an fMRI scanner while they were comprehending short source-code snippets and found a clear, distinct activation pattern of five brain regions, which are related to language processing, working memory, and attention. The programmers in the study recruited parts of the brain typically associated with language processing and verbal oriented processing (ventral lateral prefrontal cortex). At least for the simple code snippets presented, programmers could use existing language regions of the brain to understand code without requiring more complex mental models to be constructed and manipulated." (Read on for more.)
New submitter optimus_phil writes "New Scientist magazine reports on findings that suggest that delaying fatherhood may increase the risk of fathering children with disorders such as Apert syndrome, autism and schizophrenia. The article reports that 'although there is a big increase in risk for many disorders, it's a big increase in a very small risk. A 40-year-old is about 50 per cent more likely to father an autistic child than a 20-year-old is, for instance, but the overall risk is only about 1 per cent to start with.'"
First time accepted submitter ssasa writes "A Virginia Tech researcher is proposing a new naming system for all life on earth [based on each organism's] genetic fingerprint — basically something like a hash function of an organism. Hash functions are in common use in software development. Hopefully it will pass some time before we see a hash collision between a cat and some dinosaur."
An anonymous reader writes "Enter decentralized, open source mining with the first scientific proof of work. Riecoin is a decentralized (p2p), open source digital currency. Proof of work is about finding Hardy-Littlewood k-tuples. Ultimately miners are verifying the Riemann hypothesis. Unlike for Primecoin the probability of accepting a false positive goes to zero as the network grows. Primecoin uses Fermat Test which runs the risk of accepting so called Carmichael numbers. Riecoin uses a stronger test to ensure correctness."
PolygamousRanchKid writes "The Khaleej Times of Dubai reports that a fatwa committee has forbidden Muslims from taking a one-way trip to the Red Planet. At the moment, there is no technology available that would allow for a return trip from Mars, so it is truly a one-way ticket for the colonists, who may also become reality TV stars in the process. The committee of the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment in the United Arab Emirates that issued the fatwa against such a journey doesn't have anything against space exploration, Elon Musk's Mars visions, or anything like that. Rather, the religious leaders argue that making the trip would be tantamount to committing suicide, which all religions tend to frown upon."
barlevg writes "Each fall, a team led by Virginia Tech Professor of Entomology Thomas Kuhar gathers brown marmorated stink bugs from around campus and plops them into ventilated and insulated five-gallon buckets designed to simulate the habitats in which the bugs naturally wait out the winter. While previous lab tests have shown the insects capable of surviving chills of -20 C, last month's polar vortex proved too much for the little guys, with only 5% surviving the sustained cold conditions. This suggests that the DC area's population of stink bugs and other overwintering insects should be much lower come spring than in previous years."
Rambo Tribble writes "John Cryan, a researcher at the University College Cork, explains the relationship between the bacteria in your gut and your brain. 'In a pioneering study, a Japanese research team showed that mice raised without any gut bacteria had an exaggerated physical response to stress, releasing more hormone than mice that had a full complement of bacteria. However, this effect could be reduced in bacteria-free mice by repopulating their gut with Bifidobacterium infantis, one of the major symbiotic bacteria found in the gut. Cryan’s team built on this finding, showing that this effect could be reproduced even in healthy mice.' It seems the flora in your intestines can influence brain development as well as aspects of health and nutrition, which in turn affect such things as hormones and neurotransmitters. 'His team tested the effects of two strains of bacteria, finding that one improved cognition in mice. His team is now embarking on human trials, to see if healthy volunteers can have their cognitive abilities enhanced or modulated by tweaking the gut microbiome.'"
KentuckyFC writes "The technology behind the T-1000 assassin in the Terminator movies might as well be science fiction as far as modern manufacturing is concerned. But we're making progress — thanks to some work by Chinese engineers who have perfected a way to make liquid metals assume various shapes and switch from one to another with the flick of a switch. These guys placed a thin film of gallium-indium-selenium alloy (melting point 10.5 degrees C) in water and applied an electric field. The balance between the surface tension of the metal and the electric forces on its surface then caused the metal to form a ball. They can move the sphere around, combine it with other spheres, and even use it to rotate the water. The engineers say this is the first step toward smart liquid machines that can assume almost any shape. And since the alloy is biologically benign, these machines could be used with, and even inside humans. Their next goal is to create a set of parallel electrodes that cause the metal to form into an undulating worm-shape that can propel itself along."
An anonymous reader writes "In a newly published paper, MIT researchers propose an experiment that may close the last major loophole of Bell's inequality. The test is to see whether, as far-fetched as it sounds, a particle detector's settings conspire with events in the shared past to determine which properties of a particle to measure — a scenario that implies that a physicist running the experiment does not have complete free will in choosing each detector's setting. MIT’s David Kaiser says, 'It sounds creepy, but people realized that's a logical possibility that hasn't been closed yet. Before we make the leap to say the equations of quantum theory tell us the world is inescapably crazy and bizarre, have we closed every conceivable logical loophole, even if they may not seem plausible in the world we know today?' The test involves quasars, telescopes, and lots of deep, deep space. It was published this week in the journal Physical Review Letters (pre-print available at the arXiv)."
brindafella writes "Researchers have made what they describe as an 'almost embarrassing' discovery, that twisted nylon fishing line can form a 'powerful, large-stroke, high-stress artificial muscle' capable of lifting as much as 100 times more weight than human muscles. They twisted the fishing line, then heated it to 'set' the shape-memory. The scientists are from the Australian Research Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science at the University of Wollongong, and the University of Texas. The findings are published in Science magazine."