Mars

Does Elon Musk's Hyperloop Make More Sense On Mars? 143 143

An anonymous reader writes: Elon Musk's Hyperloop project has its challenges in places that have air. But in places with little air and no fossil fuels, where you can't fly and there's little drag, it makes a lot more sense. Post-doc researcher Leon Vanstone thinks the Hyperloop may have more of a future on Mars than here on Earth. He says, "Conservative cost estimates for building a single Hyperloop track from Los Angeles to San Francisco come in at US$6 billion. Taking the technology nationwide would cost hundreds of billions of dollars more. When you consider that normal, boring airplanes already travel at about 500-600 mph – about two-thirds as fast as the Hyperloop’s predicted speed – you might begin to wonder if an extra 200 mph is enough of a payoff for those hundreds of billions of dollars. ... Well, Elon Musk is no idiot, and he certainly has the money to hire some of the best and the brightest. ... A high-speed, safe, self-powered transportation system will be vital to connect Martian settlements – likely to be few in number and separated by large distances."
Space

New Horizons Phones Home After Pluto Flyby -- Craft Healthy, Data Recorded 134 134

Tablizer was one of several readers to note that the New Horizons probe has completed its flyby of Pluto and radioed home to confirm that it went without incident. Mission Ops manager Alice Bowman said the spacecraft was healthy, full of data, and sharing telemetry. The images New Horizon collected haven't been downloaded yet, but NASA decided to tide us over by releasing this high-resolution view from the day before. It was taken when the probe was still 768,000 kilometers away with a resolution of 3.8km per pixel. (Closest approach was approximately 12,500km.) They also released an exaggerated-color image of Pluto and Charon which highlights the non-uniformity of both worlds.

Pictures from closest approach are not yet available. Expect another post late Wednesday or early Thursday with those images. The reason for this is that New Horizons can't take pictures and send them to us at the same time, so imaging activity is interspersed with downlinks to Earth to transmit data. Emily Lakdawalla has posted a downlink schedule. On Wednesday afternoon (ET), the probe will transmit three images of Pluto that were taken from 77,000km away, with a resolution of 0.4 km per pixel. They'll be the first three pieces of a mosaic of Pluto's surface, and the dwarf planet will fill all three frames. It will take a full 16 months for New Horizons to transmit all the data it collects. (Lakdawalla also added Pluto to a montage of the biggest non-planets in the solar system. New Horizon's measurements indicate Pluto is slightly larger than we thought. It's now considered the largest of the Kuiper Belt objects.)
Space

Video Planet Labs Has Launched Over 100 Imaging Satellites with Many More to Come (Video) 15 15

According to a recent CNN article, Planet Labs produces Great photos of Earth from the world's smallest satellites. Most satellites these days are about the size of a car. Planet Labs micro-satellites are closer to the size of a shoebox. The company was founded in 2012 and has attracted major venture capital. They're using that money to launch an ever-increasing number of Flocks (their word) of satellites they call "Doves," which are basically nothing but cameras and simple comm equipment, along with solar panels, batteries, and control circuitry required to make everything work. Interviewee Shaun Meehan gets into most of this in the video; for more detail, please read the transcript.
Science

LHC Discovers Pentaquark Particles 95 95

mrspoonsi sends news that researchers running experiments at the Large Hadron Collider have published findings confirming the existence of pentaquark particles, first predicted in the 1960s by Murray Gell Mann and George Zweig. The particles consist of five quarks bound together. Further research will examine exactly how this binding works. Previous experiments had measured only the so-called mass distribution where a statistical peak may appear against the background "noise" - the possible signature of a novel particle. But the collider enabled researchers to look at the data from additional perspectives, namely the four angles defined by the different directions of travel taken by particles within LHCb. "We are transforming this problem from a one-dimensional to a five dimensional one... we are able to describe everything that happens in the decay," said Dr. Koppenburg, who first saw a signal begin to emerge in 2012. "There is no way that what we see could be due to something else other than the addition of a new particle that was not observed before."
Space

Study Details What Happens When Galaxies Collide 52 52

Aspiring Astronomer writes: According to a recent study, when two galaxies of a similar mass collide, both galaxies will begin producing more stars. However, when one galaxy considerably outweighs the other, the larger galaxy begins producing more stars, whereas the smaller galaxy's star production begins to slow. This may be because the larger galaxy is able to draw gases from the smaller one, resulting in the formation of more stars. The Milky Way may experience a collision of it's own, because the Andromeda Galaxy is moving towards us at speeds upwards of 200,000 miles per hour. No need to worry, though; this collision is a few billion years away.
Shark

CIA Shares Julia Child's Shark Repellent Recipe 41 41

coondoggie writes: Sometimes some of the coolest stories get lost in history. The CIA recently noted one of them – famous French food chef and author Julia Child's critical involvement in developing a shark repellent recipe for military personnel during WWII. The CIA reports: "Julia McWilliams (better known by her married name, Julia Child) joined the newly-created OSS in 1942 in search of adventure. This was years before she became the culinary icon of French cuisine that she is known for today. In fact, at this time, Julia was self-admittedly a disaster in the kitchen. Perhaps all the more fitting that she soon found herself helping to develop a recipe that even a shark would refuse to eat....After trying over 100 different substances—including common poisons—the researchers found several promising possibilities: extracts from decayed shark meat, organic acids, and several copper salts, including copper sulphate and copper acetate. After a year of field tests, the most effective repellent was copper acetate."
NASA

NASA's New Horizons Focuses On Pluto's Largest Moon Charon 77 77

MarkWhittington writes: New Horizons has already discovered much of what was previously unknown about Pluto, the dwarf planet that is the former ninth planet from the sun. NASA reported that the space probe has also uncovered some of the secrets of Pluto's largest moon, Charon. It has found indications of impact craters on the moon's gray surface as well as a chasm that seems to be bigger than the Grand Canyon on Earth. Charon has a diameter of just 1440 miles. By contrast, Earth has a diameter of 7918 miles.
Medicine

The Cure Culture: Our Obsession With Cures That Are 'Just Around the Corner' 204 204

citadrianne writes: Cures for major disease always seem just a few short years away. We constantly read about promising new treatments for cancer, diabetes, HIV, ALS, and more. While the prognosis for these diseases has improved over the years — sometimes greatly — we still focus doggedly on the cure. "The idea of a cure is simpler, it's more appealing as a fantasy." This article takes a look at so-called "Cure Culture" — the focus on reaching for a cure when our scientific efforts may be better expended attacking a disease in other ways. It asks, "Why are we telling our children, our friends, and our family members that we are going to cure them? ... What does it mean to be cured of a disease that is encoded within your DNA from the moment you become a zygote until the moment you are dead? ... And why are we eschewing or overlooking treatments—real, honest-to-god treatments—that can let patients lead longer, more normal lives?
Education

University of Toronto: Anti-vaccine Homeopathy Course Is Fine 273 273

The University of Toronto recently undertook an investigation of one of its courses, a bachelor-level health class that taught both anti-vaccination materials and the "science" of homeopathy. The investigation was undertaken because of complaints from professors and other scientific and medical experts. Surprisingly, the university concluded that the class was just fine. "Students taking (the course) ... are in their final year of study and are expected to approach controversial topics with a critical lens. The instructor reports that she provides these readings as the students have already seen the other side in previous courses." The course's syllabus is available for reading. It contains quotes like this: "There are broad concepts that bind various 'alternative' medical modalities together. Among these is the assertion that the human organism, which developed as an integrated unit in its formation, also functions as an integrated unit; that mind, body, and spirit are inextricably linked. Disorder or disturbance in any one of these areas can cause disease in another area."
Update: 07/13 14:14 GMT by S : Reader Gallenod points out that the University has now decided that the course will not be taught during the 2015-2016 academic year, or over the summer.
Communications

ISRO Launches Record 5 UK Satellites, Part of a Long String of Successes 33 33

vasanth writes: India launched its heaviest commercial space mission ever with its polar rocket successfully putting five British satellites into the intended orbit after a flawless takeoff. With the overall mass of five satellites being about 1,440 kg, this launch becomes the "heaviest commercial mission" ever undertaken by ISRO and its commercial arm Antrix Corporation.

The workhorse of India's space program, the PSLV is on a run of 25 consecutive successful launches. First flown in 1993, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, or PSLV, is by far India's most-used rocket for orbital missions – accounting for thirty of the country's 46 launches to date including Friday's.
Advertising

Twitter Yanks Ads UK Activists Say Could Trigger Seizures 63 63

After complaints from UK charity Epilepsy Action, Twitter pulled after less than a day two ads that the group said might cause epileptic seizures. The in-house ads, in the 6-second format of Twitter-owned Vine, consisted of flashing video which the Epilepsy Action said "was dangerous, as it could potentially produce seizures in people who have photo-sensitive epilepsy."
NASA

New Horizons Gets Closer to Pluto, But Mystery Spots Now Out of Sight 98 98

The L.A. Times reports that the strange spots spotted on the surface of Pluto by the New Horizons mission will be on the wrong side of the planet for the approaching fly-by that the craft will make of the smallest planet (or dwarf planet, depending) of our solar system. (The BBC makes a similar observation.) That doesn't mean that New Horizons' approach is anything short of "a spectacular event."
Earth

Double-Dynamo Model Predicts 60% Fall In Solar Output In The 2030s 249 249

sycodon points out reports of a new model of solar dynamics from University of Northumbria professor Valentina Zharkova, predictions from which "suggest that solar activity will fall by 60 per cent during the 2030s to conditions last seen during the 'mini ice age' that began in 1645." Zharkova's model, based on observation of solar magnetism, "draws on dynamo effects in two layers of the Sun, one close to the surface and one deep within its convection zone." Zharkova’s and her colleages at three other universities believe that this two-layer model "could explain aspects of the solar cycle with much greater accuracy than before — possibly leading to enhanced predictions of future solar behaviour. “We found magnetic wave components appearing in pairs; originating in two different layers in the Sun’s interior. They both have a frequency of approximately 11 years, although this frequency is slightly different [for both] and they are offset in time.”
Space

NASA Names Its Astronauts For the First Dragon and CST-100 Flights 38 38

schwit1 writes with news that NASA has named the four government astronauts that will fly on the first manned demo flights to ISS of SpaceX's Dragon and Boeing's CST-100. From Florida Today's report: Bob Behnken, Eric Boe, Doug Hurley and Sunita Williams are veteran test pilots who have flown on the shuttle and the International Space Station. NASA said the four astronauts will train with both companies and have not yet been assigned to flights. Two-person crews will fly the first test flights by each capsule, after they have completed an orbital test flight without people on board. Company proposals anticipate an all-NASA crew flying SpaceX's Dragon test flight, with Boeing's CST-100 carrying a split NASA-Boeing crew. Boeing has not yet identified its astronaut.
Biotech

New Letters Added To the Genetic Alphabet 74 74

An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from Quanta Magazine: [A]fter decades of work, [organic chemist Steven] Benner's team has synthesized artificially enhanced DNA that functions much like ordinary DNA, if not better. In two papers published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society last month, the researchers have shown that two synthetic nucleotides called P and Z fit seamlessly into DNA's helical structure, maintaining the natural shape of DNA. Moreover, DNA sequences incorporating these letters can evolve just like traditional DNA, a first for an expanded genetic alphabet. In fact, the article continues, these new nucleotides can actually outperform their natural counterparts: "When challenged to evolve a segment that selectively binds to cancer cells, DNA sequences using P and Z did better than those without."
Technology

Black Phosphorus Could Spur the Next Wave of Tiny Transistors 35 35

Zothecula writes: Researchers at McGill University and Université de Montréal have provided insight into another promising candidate that could help chip designers keep pace with Moore's Law: black phosphorus — a stable form of the element that can be separated into individual atomic layers, known as phosphorene (abstract). "Phosphorene has sparked growing interest because it overcomes many of the challenges of using graphene in electronics. Unlike graphene, which acts like a metal, black phosphorus is a natural semiconductor: it can be readily switched on and off." This new research found that "electrons are able to be pulled into a sheet of charge which is two-dimensional, even though they occupy a volume that is several atomic layers in thickness." It's an important step toward developing a manufacturing process for transistors made of this material.
Government

SpaceX Rocket Failure Cost NASA $110 Million 204 204

An anonymous reader writes: On June 28th, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded just over two minutes into its attempt to reach the International Space Station. It was a contracted mission from NASA to resupply the astronauts living there. Today, NASA associate administrator William Gerstenmaier said the price tag to taxpayers for that failed launch is $110 million. SpaceX is leading the investigation into the cause of the failure, and NASA officials faced tough questions about whether private companies should be allowed to direct investigations into their own failed launches. A similar inquiry is underway at Orbital ATK. NASA inspector general Paul Martin said his office is looking into the matter. Gerstenmaier added that NASA is thinking about making these companies take out insurance policies that would cover the cost to taxpayers in the event of another failure.
Earth

Bumblebees Being Crushed By Climate Change 225 225

sciencehabit writes: As the climate changes, plants and animals are on the move. So far, many are redistributing in a similar pattern: As habitat that was once too cold warms up, species are expanding their ranges toward the poles, whereas boundaries closer to the equator have remained more static. Bumblebees, however, appear to be a disturbing exception, according to a new study (abstract) . A comprehensive look at dozens of species finds that many North American and European bumblebees are failing to "track" warming by colonizing new habitats north of their historic range. Simultaneously, they are disappearing from the southern portions of their range.
NASA

Lifting the Veil On Pluto's Atmosphere 79 79

New submitter Pedro Braganca sends an update on the New Horizons mission to Pluto, now less than four days to closest approach. While we're waiting, NASA has published the best images of Pluto and Charon yet seen. We're starting to be able to make out surface details: A high-contrast array of bright and dark features covers Pluto's surface, while on Charon, only a dark polar region interrupts a generally more uniform light gray terrain. The reddish materials that color Pluto are absent on Charon. Pluto has a significant atmosphere; Charon does not. On Pluto, exotic ices like frozen nitrogen, methane, and carbon monoxide have been found, while Charon's surface is made of frozen water and ammonia compounds. The interior of Pluto is mostly rock, while Charon contains equal measures of rock and water ice. A countdown to closest approach is present on the New Horizons mission page, as well as the raw image feed.
Crime

Bomb Squad Searches House Over Teenager's Chemistry Experiments 431 431

McGruber writes: On Wednesday, authorities in the south Fulton County, Georgia town of Hapeville shut down a street for hours and used their bomb squad to search a home. According to the suspect's father, the bomb scare started after his 18-year-old son was arrested for trespassing, entering an abandoned warehouse and salvaging mercury switches, which can be used to detonate explosives. When police searched the teen's home on Virginia Avenue at Rainey Avenue in Hapeville, they said they found chemicals inside. "He's not building bombs. He does do a lot of experiments. A lot of them I don't fully understand, but I'm certain he's not making bombs," said the suspect's father, Allen Mason. Mason says chemistry is his son's hobby and he wants to be a chemical engineer. Mason also said police told him what they found is not illegal to own. One neighbor, who couldn't return home for hours, said he didn't feel the teen was a threat. "I don't see a problem with this, but you have to trust the authorities in they're doing what they think is best," said Curtis Ray. In February 2015, Hapeville authorities evacuated businesses and called out the bomb squad to investigate a pinhole camera that was part of a Georgia University Art Project.