Earth

California Votes To Ban Microbeads 241

Posted by timothy
from the stock-up-now-on-crest dept.
New submitter Kristine Lofgren writes: The California Assembly just passed a vote to ban toxic microbeads, the tiny flecks found in toothpastes and exfoliants. Microbeads cause a range of problems, from clogging waterways to getting stuck in gums. The ban would be the strictest of its kind in the nation. As the article notes, the California Senate would need to pass a bill as well, for this ban to take effect, and if that happens, the resulting prohibition will come into place in 2020. From the article: Last year, Illinois became the first state in the U.S. to pass a ban on the usage of microbeads in cosmetics, approving a law that will go into effect in 2018, and earlier this year two congressmen introduced a bipartisan bill to outlaw the use of microbeads nationwide. And for exceptionally good reason; the beads, which serve as exfoliants and colorants are a massive source of water pollution, with scientists estimating that 471 million plastic microbeads are released into San Francisco Bay alone every single day.
Earth

Gravitational Anomalies Beneath Mountains Point To Isostasy of Earth's Crust 94

Posted by samzenpus
from the give-and-take dept.
StartsWithABang writes: Imagine you wanted to know what your acceleration was anywhere on Earth; imagine that simply saying "9.81 m/s^2" wasn't good enough. What would you need to account for? Sure, there are the obvious things: the Earth's rotation and its various altitudes and different points. Surely, the farther away you are from Earth's center, the less your acceleration's going to be. But what might come as a surprise is that if you went up to the peak of the highest mountains, not only would the acceleration due to gravity be its lowest, but there'd also be less mass beneath your feet than at any other location.
Earth

Oldest Stone Tools Predate Previous Record Holder By 700,000 Years 103

Posted by samzenpus
from the back-in-the-day dept.
derekmead writes: The oldest stone tools ever found have been discovered by scientists in Kenya who say they are 3.3m years old, making them by far the oldest such artifacts discovered. Predating the rise of humans' first ancestors in the Homo genus, the artifacts were found near Lake Turkana, Kenya. More than 100 primitive hammers, anvils and other stone tools have been found at the site. An in-depth analysis of the site, its contents, and its significance as a new benchmark in evolutionary history will be published in the May 21 issue of Nature.
Businesses

The Brainteaser Elon Musk Asks New SpaceX Engineers 489

Posted by samzenpus
from the riddle-me-this dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes: The latest biography of Elon Musk, by technology journalist Ashlee Vance, provides an in-depth look into how the entrepreneur and tech titan built Tesla Motors and SpaceX from the ground up. For developers and engineers, getting a job at SpaceX is difficult, with a long interviewing/testing process... and for some candidates, there's a rather unique final step: an interview with Musk himself. During that interview, Musk reportedly likes to ask candidates a particular brainteaser: "You're standing on the surface of the Earth. You walk one mile south, one mile west, and one mile north. You end up exactly where you started. Where are you?" If you can answer that riddle successfully, and pass all of SpaceX's other stringent tests, you may have a shot at launching rockets into orbit.
Mars

Martian Moons May Have Formed Like Earth's 50

Posted by Soulskill
from the carved-out-of-green-cheese dept.
sciencehabit writes: Astronomers have long believed that Mars snatched its two moons — Phobos and Deimos — from the asteroid belt. That would explain why the objects look like asteroids—dark, crater-pocked, and potato-shaped. But computer simulations by two independent teams of astronomers (abstract 1, abstract 2) indicated that Mars's moons formed much like ours did, after a giant space rock smashed into the planet and sprayed debris into orbit.
United States

The Demographic Future of America's Political Parties 607

Posted by samzenpus
from the last-of-their-kind dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Daniel McGraw writes that based on their demographic characteristics the Democratic and Republican parties face two very different futures. There's been much written about how millennials are becoming a reliable voting bloc for Democrats, but there's been much less attention paid to one of the biggest get-out-the-vote challenges for the Republican Party heading into the next presidential election: The Republican Party voter is old—and getting older and far more Republicans than Democrats have died since the 2012 elections. By combining presidential election exit polls with mortality rates per age group from the U.S. Census Bureau, McGraw calculated that, of the 61 million who voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, about 2.75 million will be dead by the 2016 election. About 2.3 million of President Barack Obama's voters have died too but that leaves a big gap in between, a difference of roughly 453,000 in favor of the Democrats. "I've never seen anyone doing any studies on how many dead people can't vote," laughs William Frey, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who specializes in demographic studies. "I've seen studies on how many dead people do vote. The old Daley Administration in Chicago was very good at that."

Frey points out that, since Republicans are getting whiter and older, replacing the voters that leave this earth with young ones is essential for them to be competitive in presidential elections. "Millennials (born 1981 to 1997) now are larger in numbers than baby boomers ([born] 1946 to 1964), and how they vote will make the big difference. And the data says that if Republicans focus on economic issues and stay away from social ones like gay marriage, they can make serious inroads with millennials." Exit polling indicates that millennials have split about 65-35 in favor of the Dems in the past two elections. If that split holds true in 2016, Democrats will have picked up a two million vote advantage among first-time voters. These numbers combined with the voter death data puts Republicans at an almost 2.5 million voter disadvantage going into 2016.
The Military

Robotic Space Plane Launches In Mystery Mission This Week 110

Posted by samzenpus
from the flying-into-a-mystery dept.
mpicpp writes: The United States Air Force's robotic X-37B space plane will carry a NASA experiment into orbit when it launches on its next mystery mission Wednesday. The liftoff will begin the reusable space plane's fourth mission, which is known as OTV-4 (short for Orbital Test Vehicle-4). Since it's classified it's not entirely clear what the space plane will be doing once it leaves Earth Wednesday. This has led to some speculation that the vehicle might be a weapon, but officials have repeatedly refuted that notion, saying X-37B flights simply test a variety of new technologies. The X-37B looks like a miniature version of NASA's now-retired space shuttle. The robotic, solar-powered space plane is about 29 feet long by 9.5 feet tall (8.8 by 2.9 meters), with a wingspan of 15 feet (4.6 meters) and a payload bay the size of a pickup-truck bed. Like the space shuttle, the X-37B launches vertically and lands horizontally, on a runway.
Social Networks

Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team Responds In Nepal 25

Posted by samzenpus
from the lending-a-hand dept.
An anonymous reader writes with news about the efforts of the The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team to help in the aftermath of the earthquake in Nepal. The team asks those living in the affected areas to help out by reporting which buildings are damaged, which are still standing, and where fissures and other quake damage is located. Opensource.com has a profile of their efforts which reads: Since the devastating earthquake in Nepal, there have been responses from all over the world from relief agencies, governments, non-profits, and ordinary citizens. One interesting effort has been from the crowdsourced mapping community, especially on OpenStreetMap.org, a free and open web map of the world that anyone can edit (think the Wikipedia of maps.) The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT), an NGO that works to train, coordinate, and organize mapping on OpenStreetMap for humanitarian, disaster response, and economic development, has mobilized volunteers from around the world to help map since the Haiti earthquake in 2010.
United Kingdom

Using Satellites To Monitor Bridge Safety 36

Posted by samzenpus
from the keeping-an-eye-on-things dept.
__roo writes: In an effort to detect crumbling infrastructure before it causes damage and costs lives, the European Space Agency is working with the UK's University of Nottingham to monitor the movements of large structures as they happen using satellite navigation sensors. The team uses highly sensitive satnav receivers that transmit real-time data to detect movements as small as 1 cm combined with historical Earth observation satellite data. By placing sensors at key locations on the Forth Road Bridge in Scotland, they detected stressed structural members and unexpected deformations.
Businesses

Apple Acquires GPS Start-Up 71

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can't-get-there-from-here dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Apple is still sprinting to catch up with Google with its navigation software — the company just acquired Coherent Navigation, a startup focused on GPS tech. Its navigation services are reportedly more precise than most commercial-grade systems. Their system "combines signals from the traditional mid-earth orbit GPS satellites with those from the low-earth satellites of voice and data provider Iridium to offer greater accuracy and precision, higher signal integrity, and greater jam resistance." They've already worked with Boeing and the U.S. Department of Defense. Apple didn't disclose the terms of the deal or explain any specific plans for the GPS technology.
Space

Ask Slashdot: Best Payloads For Asteroid Diverter/Killer Mission? 149

Posted by Soulskill
from the four-micrograms-of-nanites dept.
TheRealHocusLocus writes: The Emergency Asteroid Defence Project has launched a crowdfunded IndieGoGo campaign to help produce a set of working blueprints for a two-stage HAIV, or Hypervelocity Asteroid Intercept Vehicle. This HAIV paper (PDF) describes the use of a leading kinetic impactor to make a crater — a following nuclear warhead would detonate in the crater for maximum energy transfer. The plans would be available for philanthropists to bring to prototype stage, while your friendly local nuclear weapon state supplies the warhead. This may be a best-fit solution. But just ask Morgan Freeman: these strategies could fail. What — if any — backup strategy could be integrated into an HAIV mission as a fail-safe in case the primary fails? Here is a review of strategies (some fanciful, few deployable) if we have to divert an asteroid with very short lead time. A gentle landing on the object may not be feasible, and we must rely on things that push hard or go boom. For example: detonating nearby to ablate surface materials and create recoil in the direction we wish to nudge. Also, with multiple warheads and precise timing, would it be possible to create a "shaped" nuclear explosion in space?
Sci-Fi

On the Taxonomy of Sci-Fi Spaceships 90

Posted by Soulskill
from the stay-classy dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Jeff Venancio has done some research that's perfect reading for a lazy Saturday afternoon: figuring out a coherent taxonomy for sci-fi spaceships. If you're a sci-fi fan, you've doubtless heard or read references to a particular starship's "class" fairly often. There are flagships and capital ships, cruisers and corvettes, battleships and destroyers. But what does that all mean? Well, there's not always consistency, but a lot of it comes from Earth's naval history. "The word 'corvette' comes from the Dutch word corf, which means 'small ship,' and indeed corvettes are historically the smallest class of rated warship (a rating system used by the British Royal Navy in the sailing age, basically referring to the amount of men/guns on the vessel and its relative size; corvettes were of the sixth and smallest rate). ... They were usually used for escorting convoys and patrolling waters, especially in places where larger ships would be unnecessary."

Venancio takes the historical context for each ship type and then explains how it's been adapted for a sci-context. "Corvettes might be outfitted to have some sort of stealth or cloaking system for reconnaissance or spec ops missions; naturally it would be easier to cloak a smaller ship than a larger one (though plenty of examples of large stealth ships exist). In some series they are likely to be diplomatic vessels due to their small size and speed, particularly seen in Star Wars, and can commonly act as blockade runners (again; their small size and speed makes them ideal for slipping through a blockade, where a larger ship presents more of a target)."
Earth

Larson B Ice Shelf In Antarctica To Disintegrate Within 5 Years 293

Posted by Soulskill
from the grab-some-popcorn dept.
BarbaraHudson writes: A new study (abstract) from NASA scientists predicts an Antarctic ice shelf half the size of Rhode Island will disintegrate around 2020. The shelf has existed for roughly 10,000 years. "Ice shelves are the gatekeepers for glaciers flowing from Antarctica toward the ocean. Without them, glacial ice enters the ocean faster and accelerates the pace of global sea level rise." At its thickest point, the ice shelf remnant is a half kilometer tall, and spans approximately 1,600 square kilometers. "The glaciers' thicknesses and flow speeds changed only slightly in the first couple of years following the 2002 collapse, leading researchers to assume they remained stable. The new study revealed, however, that Leppard and Flask glaciers have thinned by 65-72 feet (20-22 meters) and accelerated considerably in the intervening years. The fastest-moving part of Flask Glacier had accelerated 36 percent by 2012 to a flow speed of 2,300 feet (700 meters) a year."
Star Wars Prequels

Rediscovered Lucas-Commissioned Short "Black Angel" Released On YouTube 121

Posted by timothy
from the low-budget-high-value dept.
eldavojohn writes: Youtube now offers Black Angel, a short film shown in UK theaters before ESB. What was once thought lost is now found; enjoy. This may be the best half-hour you spend today, even if you must "set your clocks back 34 years," as writer and director Roger Christian advises. (Christian is also known for directing 2000's Battlefield Earth .)
Earth

Greenland's Glaciers Develop Stretch Marks As They Accelerate 249

Posted by timothy
from the warp-speed-effect dept.
New submitter dywolf writes: NASA-run Operation IceBridge has been monitoring and mapping ice sheets for the past eight years. They develop these maps in 3D using laser equipped aircraft to measure ice thickness. As glaciers reach the coast, they begin to accelerate, which causes crevasses to appear, which are essentially stretchmarks in the glacial strata. While a natural part of glaciers as they travel to sea, the glaciers of Greenland have increased in speed by 30% in the past decade. Jakobshavn Isbrae is Greenland's fastest glacier, and is now moving four times faster than it did 20 years ago.
Earth

More Than 40% of US Honeybee Colonies Died In a 12-Month Period Ending In April 219

Posted by samzenpus
from the won't-somebody-please-think-of-the-flowers? dept.
walterbyrd writes: The Agriculture Department released its annual honeybee survey Wednesday and it doesn't look good. More than 40% of U.S. honeybee colonies died in a 12-month period ending in April. While the precise cause of the honeybee crisis is unknown, scientists generally blame a combination of factors, including poor diets and stress. Some bees die from infestations of the Varroa mite, a bloodsucking parasite that weakens bees and introduces diseases to the hive. Environmental groups also point to a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids. In April, the Environmental Protection Agency said it would stop approving new outdoor uses for those types of chemicals until more studies on bee health are conducted.
Earth

California Gets Past the Yuck Factor With "Toilet To Tap" Water Recycling 278

Posted by samzenpus
from the flush-me-a-cup dept.
HughPickens.com writes: From a marketing point of view, using treated sewage to create drinking water is a proposition that has proved difficult to sell to customers. Now John Schwartz writes in the NYT that as California scrambles for ways to cope with its crippling drought and the mandatory water restrictions imposed last month by Gov. Jerry Brown, enticing people to drink recycled water is requiring California residents to get past what experts call the "yuck" factor. Efforts in the 1990s to develop water reuse in San Diego and Los Angeles were beaten back by activists who denounced what they called, devastatingly, "toilet to tap." Orange County swung people to the idea of drinking recycled water with a special purification plant which has been operating since 2008 avoiding a backlash with a massive public relations campaign that involved more than 2,000 community presentations. The county does not run its purified water directly into drinking water treatment plants; instead, it sends the water underground to replenish the area's aquifers and to be diluted by the natural water supply. This environmental buffer seems to provide an emotional buffer for consumers as well.

In 2000, Los Angeles actually completed a sewage reclamation plant capable of providing water to 120,000 homes — the Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant in Van Nuys.The plan was abandoned after public outrage. Angelenos, it seemed, were too good to drink perfectly safe recycled water — dismissed as "toilet to tap." But Los Angeles is ready to try again, with plans to provide a quarter of the city's needs by 2024 with recycled water and captured storm water routed through aquifers. "The difference between this and 2000 is everyone wants this to happen," says Marty Adams. The inevitable squeamishness over drinking water that was once waste ignores a fundamental fact, says George Tchobanoglous: "When it comes down to it, water is water. Everyone who lives downstream on a river is drinking recycled water."
Earth

Ice Loss In West Antarctica Is Speeding Up 422

Posted by samzenpus
from the it's-getting-hot-in-here dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A new study just published on Antarctic ice loss by Christopher Harig and Frederik Simons of Princeton confirm West Antarctica is losing mass fast. The study used satellite measurements to determine the rate of mass loss. The lead author of the study told The Guardian: "It is very important that we continue long term monitoring of how mass changes in ice sheets. For West Antarctica in particular this is important because of how it is thought to be more unstable, where the feedbacks can cause more and more ice loss from the land over time. These strong regional accelerations that we see are very robustly measured and imply that Antarctica may become a major contributor to sea level rise in the near future. This increase in the mass loss rate, in ten years, accelerations like that show that things are beginning to change on human time scales."
Space

The Milky Way's Most Recent Supernova That Nobody Saw 56

Posted by samzenpus
from the didn't-see-it dept.
StartsWithABang writes: A little over 300 years ago, a supernova — a dying, ultramassive star — exploded, giving rise to such a luminous explosion that it might have shone as bright as our entire galaxy. And nobody on Earth saw it. Located in the plane of our Milky Way galaxy, the light was obscured, but thanks to a suite of great, space-based observatories (Hubble, Spitzer, and Chandra), we've been able to piece together exactly what occurred. Not only that, but observations of a light-echo, or reflected light off of the nearby gas, has allowed us to see the light from this explosion centuries later, and learn exactly how it happened.
Earth

Can Earthquakes Be Predicted Algorithmically? 94

Posted by timothy
from the hindsight-is-excellent dept.
An anonymous reader with this story about a practical application of big data analysis as applied to the trove of sensor readings taken by satellites and by ground-based senosrs. A company called Terra Seismic says that earthquakes can be predicted 20-30 days before they occur, by sifting data for thermal, ionic, and other abnormalities in areas where quakes are considered likely. Says the linked article: "The company claims to have successfully predicted a number of earthquakes. For example, on 5th of April 2013, the firm issued a forecast for Japan. On 12th April 2013, an earthquake hit the identified area and 33 people were injured. On 4th June 2013, the firm again made a prediction for an earthquake in North Italy. On 21st June, an earthquake hit the identified area. On 3rd March 2013, the firm issued a forecast for an earthquake in Iran. Again, after 35 days, an earthquake hit the identified area."