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NASA

Can Rep. John Culberson Save NASA's Space Exploration Program? 138

Posted by samzenpus
from the getting-the-money dept.
MarkWhittington writes The Houston Chronicle's Eric Berger has published the seventh in his series of articles about the American space program and what ails it. The piece focuses on Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, who has two fascinating aspects. The first is that he is taking over the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees NASA funding. The second is that he has a keen appreciation for the benefits of space exploration for its own sake and not just for his Houston area district.

Culberson wants to save NASA and the space program from his fellow politicians and return it to its true glory. He favors sending American astronauts back to the moon and a robotic space probe to Jupiter's moon Europa. He would like to enact budget reforms that take funding decisions away from the Office of Management and Budget and gives them solely to Congress. He favors a steady increase in NASA funding to pay for a proper program of space exploration. To say the least, he has his work cut out for him.
ISS

NASA 'Emails' a Socket Wrench To the ISS 139

Posted by Soulskill
from the hardware-as-a-service dept.
HughPickens.com writes: "Sarah LeTrent reports at CNN that NASA just emailed the design of a socket wrench to astronauts so that they could print it out in the orbit. The ratcheting socket wrench was the first "uplink tool" printed in space, according to Grant Lowery, marketing and communications manager for Made In Space, which built the printer in partnership with NASA. The tool was designed on the ground, emailed to the space station and then manufactured where it took four hours to print out the finished product. The space agency hopes to one day use the technology to make parts for broken equipment in space and long-term missions would benefit greatly from onboard manufacturing capabilities. "I remember when the tip broke off a tool during a mission," recalls NASA astronaut TJ Creamer, who flew aboard the space station during Expedition 22/23 from December 2009 to June 2010. "I had to wait for the next shuttle to come up to bring me a new one. Now, rather than wait for a resupply ship to bring me a new tool, in the future, I could just print it."
Science

New Record Set For Deepest Dwelling Fish 31

Posted by Soulskill
from the going-for-the-low-score dept.
mpicpp tips news that oceanographers have discovered a creature that sets the record for the most deeply dwelling fish on Earth. It was found in the Mariana Trench, some 8,145 meters below the surface. The 30-day voyage took place from the Schmidt Ocean Institute's research vessel, Falkor, and is the most comprehensive survey of world's deepest place ever undertaken. The Hadal Ecosystem Studies (Hades) team deployed unmanned landers more than 90 times to depths that ranged between 5,000m and 10,600m. They studied both steep walls of the undersea canyon. ... Dr. Jamieson said: "We think it is a snailfish, but it's so weird-looking; it's up in the air in terms of what it is. "It is unbelievably fragile, and when it swims, it looks like it has wet tissue paper floating behind it. And it has a weird snout — it looks like a cartoon dog snout."
Science

Birds Fled Area Before Tornadoes Appeared 94

Posted by Soulskill
from the didn't-tweet-about-it dept.
SternisheFan sends a report from scientists who were tracking a group of birds — golden-winged warblers — in the Appalachian mountains. Just a few days after the birds completed their seasonal migration, they did something odd — they picked up and moved again. Shortly thereafter, a series of storms swept through that area of the U.S., which led to a destructive tornado outbreak (abstract). After the storm had blown over, the team recaptured five of the warblers and removed the geolocators. These are tiny devices weighing about half a gram, which measure light levels. Based on the timing and length of the days they record, these gadgets allow scientists to calculate and track the approximate location of migratory birds. In this case, all five indicated that the birds had taken unprecedented evasive action, beginning one to two days ahead of the storm's arrival. "The warblers in our study flew at least 1,500km (932 miles) in total," Dr. Streby said. They escaped just south of the tornadoes' path — and then went straight home again. By 2 May, all five were back in their nesting area."
Earth

Massive Volcanic Eruptions Accompanied Dinosaur Extinction 60

Posted by Soulskill
from the some-say-dinosaurs-can't-swim-in-magma dept.
schwit1 writes: A careful updating of the geological timeline has shown that massive volcanic eruptions aligned with the extinction event that wiped out the non-avian dinosaurs 66 million years ago (abstract). "A primeval volcanic range in western India known as the Deccan Traps, which were once three times larger than France, began its main phase of eruptions roughly 250,000 years before the Cretaceous-Paleogene, or K-Pg, extinction event, the researchers report in the journal Science. For the next 750,000 years, the volcanoes unleashed more than 1.1 million cubic kilometers (264,000 cubic miles) of lava. The main phase of eruptions comprised about 80-90 percent of the total volume of the Deccan Traps' lava flow and followed a substantially weaker first phase that began about 1 million years earlier.

The results support the idea that the Deccan Traps played a role in the K-Pg extinction, and challenge the dominant theory that a meteorite impact near present-day Chicxulub, Mexico, was the sole cause of the extinction. The researchers suggest that the Deccan Traps eruptions and the Chicxulub impact need to be considered together when studying and modeling the K-Pg extinction event."
Medicine

How a 3D Printer Let a Dog Run For the First Time 25

Posted by timothy
from the dogs-have-been-running-since-forever dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes Ever since 3-D printing began to enter the mainstream, people have discussed the technology's potential for building prosthetic arms and legs for human beings. But what about doing the same for dogs? In one of those videos that ends up circulated endlessly on the Internet, a dog named Derby, born with a congenital deformity that deprived him of front paws, is outfitted with a pair of 3-D-printed prosthetics. With those "legs" in place, the dog can run for the first time, at a pretty good clip. Both the prosthetics and the video were produced by 3D Systems, which builds 3-D printers, and it seems likely that other 3-D-printing companies will explore the possibility of printing off parts for pets. And while the idea of a cyborg pooch is heartwarming, it will be interesting to see how 3D printers will continue to advance the realm of human prosthetics, which have become increasingly sophisticated over the past decade.
Biotech

Machine Learning Reveals Genetic Controls 13

Posted by Soulskill
from the finally-explains-why-your-ears-stick-out-so-far dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this quote from Quanta Magazine: Most genetic research to date has focused on just 1 percent of the genome — the areas that code for proteins. But new research, published today in Science, provides an initial map for the sections of the genome that orchestrate this protein-building process. "It's one thing to have the book — the big question is how you read the book," said Brendan Frey, a computational biologist at the University of Toronto who led the new research (abstract).

For example, researchers can use the model to predict what will happen to a protein when there’s a mistake in part of the regulatory code. Mutations in splicing instructions have already been linked to diseases such as spinal muscular atrophy, a leading cause of infant death, and some forms of colorectal cancer. In the new study, researchers used the trained model to analyze genetic data from people afflicted with some of those diseases. The scientists identified some known mutations linked to these maladies, verifying that the model works. They picked out some new candidate mutations as well, most notably for autism.

One of the benefits of the model, Frey said, is that it wasn’t trained using disease data, so it should work on any disease or trait of interest. The researchers plan to make the system publicly available, which means that scientists will be able to apply it to many more diseases.
Robotics

The Dominant Life Form In the Cosmos Is Probably Superintelligent Robots 379

Posted by Soulskill
from the quick-destroy-all-the-remaining-copies-of-Battlebots dept.
Jason Koebler writes: If and when we finally encounter aliens, they probably won't look like little green men, or spiny insectoids. It's likely they won't be biological creatures at all, but rather, advanced robots that outstrip our intelligence in every conceivable way. Susan Schneider, a professor of philosophy at the University of Connecticut, joins a handful of astronomers, including Seth Shostak, director of NASA's Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, NASA Astrobiologist Paul Davies, and Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology Stephen Dick in espousing the view that the dominant intelligence in the cosmos is probably artificial. In her paper "Alien Minds," written for a forthcoming NASA publication, Schneider describes why alien life forms are likely to be synthetic, and how such creatures might think.
Science

Quantum Physics Just Got Less Complicated 193

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-is-still-pretty-complicated dept.
wabrandsma sends this news from Phys.org: Here's a nice surprise: quantum physics is less complicated than we thought. An international team of researchers has proved that two peculiar features of the quantum world previously considered distinct are different manifestations of the same thing. The result is published 19 December in Nature Communications. Patrick Coles, Jedrzej Kaniewski, and Stephanie Wehner made the breakthrough while at the Center for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore. They found that wave-particle duality is simply the quantum uncertainty principle in disguise, reducing two mysteries to one.
The Media

Skeptics Would Like Media To Stop Calling Science Deniers 'Skeptics' 650

Posted by Soulskill
from the intellectual-brand-recognition dept.
Layzej writes: Prominent scientists, science communicators, and skeptic activists, are calling on the news media to stop using the word "skeptic" when referring to those who refuse to accept the reality of climate change, and instead refer to them by what they really are: science deniers. "Not all individuals who call themselves climate change skeptics are deniers. But virtually all deniers have falsely branded themselves as skeptics. By perpetrating this misnomer, journalists have granted undeserved credibility to those who reject science and scientific inquiry."
Science

Scientists Discover That Exercise Changes Your DNA 56

Posted by samzenpus
from the a-whole-new-you dept.
HughPickens.com writes The human genome is astonishingly complex and dynamic, with genes constantly turning on or off, depending on what biochemical signals they receive from the body. Scientists have known that certain genes become active or quieter as a result of exercise but they hadn't understood how those genes knew how to respond to exercise. Now the NYT reports that scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm have completed a study where they recruited 23 young and healthy men and women, brought them to the lab for a series of physical performance and medical tests, including a muscle biopsy, and then asked them to exercise half of their lower bodies for three months. The volunteers pedaled one-legged at a moderate pace for 45 minutes, four times per week for three months. Then the scientists repeated the muscle biopsies and other tests with each volunteer. Not surprisingly, the volunteers' exercised leg was more powerful now than the other, showing that the exercise had resulted in physical improvements. But there were also changes within the exercised muscle cells' DNA. Using technology that analyses 480,000 positions throughout the genome, they could see that new methylation patterns had taken place in 7,000 genes (an individual has 20–25,000 genes).

In a process known as DNA methylation, clusters of atoms, called methyl groups, attach to the outside of a gene like microscopic mollusks and make the gene more or less able to receive and respond to biochemical signals from the body. In the exercised portions of the bodies, many of the methylation changes were on portions of the genome known as enhancers that can amplify the expression of proteins by genes. And gene expression was noticeably increased or changed in thousands of the muscle-cell genes that the researchers studied. Most of the genes in question are known to play a role in energy metabolism, insulin response and inflammation within muscles. In other words, they affect how healthy and fit our muscles — and bodies — become. Many mysteries still remain but the message of the study is unambiguous. "Through endurance training — a lifestyle change that is easily available for most people and doesn't cost much money," says Sara Lindholm, "we can induce changes that affect how we use our genes and, through that, get healthier and more functional muscles that ultimately improve our quality of life."
NASA

Kepler Makes First Exoplanet Discovery After Mission Reboot 27

Posted by samzenpus
from the look-what-we-found dept.
astroengine writes NASA's Kepler space telescope has detected its first new extrasolar planet after mission engineers were able to save the mission from a premature death after two of the exoplanet hunter's four stabilizing reaction wheels failed last year. Called "K2," the extended mission arose from an "innovative idea" that appears to have given the prolific telescope a new lease on life. "Last summer, the possibility of a scientifically productive mission for Kepler after its reaction wheel failure in its extended mission was not part of the conversation," said Paul Hertz, NASA's astrophysics division director at the agency's headquarters in Washington D.C. "Today, thanks to an innovative idea and lots of hard work by the NASA and Ball Aerospace team, Kepler may well deliver the first candidates for follow-up study by the James Webb Space Telescope to characterize the atmospheres of distant worlds and search for signatures of life."
Earth

Satellite Captures Glowing Plants From Space 40

Posted by samzenpus
from the getting-that-glow dept.
sciencehabit writes About 1% of the light that strikes plants is re-emitted as a faint, fluorescent glow—a measure of photosynthetic activity. Today, scientists released a map of this glow as measured by the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, a NASA satellite launched in July with the goal of mapping the net amount of carbon in the atmosphere. The map reveals that tropical rainforests near the equator are actively sucking up carbon, while the Corn Belt in the eastern United States, near the end of its growing season, is also a sink. Higher resolution fluorescence mapping could one day be used to help assess crop yields and how they respond to drought and heat in a changing climate.

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