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Space

3 Former Astronauts: Earth-Asteroid Collisions Are a Real But Preventable Danger 26

Posted by timothy
from the asteroid-survival-movies-are-great dept.
Three former astronauts — Ed Lu, Tom Jones, and Bill Anders — say that reassuring figures about the rarity of asteroid collisions with Earth are perhaps too reassuring. The B612 Foundation, of which Lu is a director, has been established to draw public awareness to the risks of a large asteroid hitting a population center -- which these three men say is a far more serious public danger than has been acknowledged by NASA and other agencies. And beyond awareness, the Foundation's immediate goal is to raise money to " design and build an asteroid-finding space telescope and launch it by 2017," and then, Armageddon-style, to follow that up with technology to divert any asteroids whose path would threaten earth.
Biotech

Plant Breeders Release 'Open Source Seeds' 136

Posted by samzenpus
from the people's-meadow dept.
mr crypto (229724) writes "A group of scientists and food activists are launching a campaign to change the rules that govern seeds. They're releasing 29 new varieties of crops under a new 'open source pledge' that's intended to safeguard the ability of farmers, gardeners and plant breeders to share those seeds freely."
NASA

NASA Proposes "Water World" Theory For Origin of Life 111

Posted by samzenpus
from the from-the-water dept.
William Robinson (875390) writes "A new study from researchers at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has proposed the "water world" theory as the answer to our evolution, which describes how electrical energy naturally produced at the sea floor might have given rise to life. While the scientists had already proposed this hypothesis called 'submarine alkaline hydrothermal emergence of life' the new report assembles decades of field, laboratory and theoretical research into a grand, unified picture."
Space

Kepler-186f: Most 'Earth-Like' Alien World Discovered 221

Posted by timothy
from the fire-up-the-speculation-device dept.
astroengine (1577233) writes "About 500 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus lives a star, which, though smaller and redder than the sun, has a planet that may look awfully familiar. With a diameter just 10 percent bigger than Earth's, the newly found world is the first of its size found basking in the benign temperature region around a parent star where water, if it exists, could pool in liquid form (abstract). Scientists on the hunt for Earth's twin are focused on worlds that could support liquid surface water, which may be necessary to brew the chemistry of life. "Kepler-186f is significant because it is the first exoplanet that is the same temperature and the same size (well, ALMOST!) as the Earth," David Charbonneau, with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, wrote in an email to Discovery News. "Previously, the exoplanet most like Earth was Kepler-62f, but Kepler-186f is significantly smaller. Now we can point to a star and say, 'There lies an Earth-like planet.'""
China

Pollution In China Could Be Driving Freak Weather In US 156

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the blame-canada dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Jonathan Kaiman reports at The Guardian that China's air pollution could be intensifying storms over the Pacific Ocean and altering weather patterns in North America leading to more ... warm air in the mid-Pacific moving towards the north pole. 'Mid-latitude storms develop off Asia and they track across the Pacific, coming in to the west coast of the U.S.,' says Ellie Highwood, a climate physicist at the University of Reading. 'The particles in this model are affecting how strong those storms are, how dense the clouds are, and how much rainfall comes out of those storms.' Fossil fuel burning and petrochemical processing in Asia's rapidly developing economies lead to a build-up of aerosols, fine particles suspended in the air. Typically, aerosol formation is thought of as the antithesis to global warming: it cools our Earth's climate. But researchers say, too much of any one thing is never good. 'Aerosols provide seeds for cloud formation. If you provide too many seeds, then you fundamentally change cloud patterns and storm patterns,' says co-author Renyi Zhang. China's leaders are aware of the extent of the problem and will soon revise China's environmental protection law for the first time since 1989 ... 'The provisions on transparency are probably the most positive step forward,' says Alex Wang, expert in Chinese environmental law at UCLA. 'These include the requirement that key polluters disclose real-time pollution data.'"
Google

Google Looked Into Space Elevator, Hoverboards, and Teleportation 98

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-big-or-go-home-on-your-hoverboard dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Google has a huge research budget and an apparent willingness to take on huge projects. They've gotten themselves into autonomous cars, fiber optic internet, robotics, and Wi-Fi balloons. But that raises a question: if they're willing to commit to projects as difficult and risk as those, what projects have they explored but rejected? Several of the scientists working at Google's 'innovation lab' have spilled the beans: '[Mag-lev] systems have a stabilizing structure that keeps trains in place as they hover and move forward in only one direction. That couldn't quite translate into an open floor plan of magnets that keep a hoverboard steadily aloft and free to move in any direction. One problem, as Piponi explains, is that magnets tend to keep shifting polarities, so your hoverboard would constantly flip over as you floated around moving from a state of repulsion to attraction with the magnets. Any skateboarder could tell you what that means: Your hoverboard would suck. ... If scaling problems are what brought hoverboards down to earth, material-science issues crashed the space elevator. The team knew the cable would have to be exceptionally strong-- "at least a hundred times stronger than the strongest steel that we have," by Piponi's calculations. He found one material that could do this: carbon nanotubes. But no one has manufactured a perfectly formed carbon nanotube strand longer than a meter. And so elevators "were put in a deep freeze," as Heinrich says, and the team decided to keep tabs on any advances in the carbon nanotube field.'"
Earth

Climate Scientist: Climate Engineering Might Be the Answer To Warming 341

Posted by samzenpus
from the warm-up-the-cloud-gun dept.
Lasrick (2629253) writes "Tom Wigley is one of the world's top climate scientists, and in this interview he explains his outspoken support for both nuclear energy and research into climate engineering. Wigley was one of the first scientists to break the taboo on public discussion of climate engineering as a possible response to global warming; in a 2006 paper in the journal Science, he proposed a combined geoengineering-mitigation strategy that would address the problem of increasing ocean acidity, as well as the problem of climate change. In this interview, he argues that renewable energy alone will not be sufficient to address the climate challenge, because it cannot be scaled up quickly and cheaply enough, and that opposition to nuclear power 'threatens humanity's ability to avoid dangerous climate change.'"
Moon

The Best Way To Watch the "Blood Moon" Tonight 146

Posted by samzenpus
from the good-omens dept.
An anonymous reader writes "People on the West Coast should be able to watch the beginning of the upcoming total lunar eclipse tonight at 10:20 pm. The entirety of the moon surface will be in Earth's shadow and start to glow red a couple hours later, a little after midnight. From the article: 'A lunar eclipse occurs when the sun, moon, and Earth align so that Earth's shadow falls across the moon's surface. Monday night's lunar eclipse is a total eclipse, which means Earth's shadow will cover the moon completely. The moon won't be blacked out by our planet's shadow. Instead, it will take on a reddish hue — anywhere from a bright copper to the brownish red of dried blood.'"
Math

Mathematicians Use Mossberg 500 Pump-Action Shotgun To Calculate Pi 307

Posted by samzenpus
from the less-common-core-math dept.
KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "Imagine the following scenario. The end of civilization has occurred, zombies have taken over the Earth and all access to modern technology has ended. The few survivors suddenly need to know the value of pi and, being a mathematician, they turn to you. What do you do? According to a couple of Canadian mathematicians, the answer is to repeatedly fire a Mossberg 500 pump action shotgun at a square aluminum target about 20 meters away. Then imagine that the square is inscribed with an arc drawn between opposite corners that maps out a quarter circle. If the sides of the square are equal to 1, then the area of the quarter circle is pi/4. Next, count the number of pellet holes that fall inside the area of the quarter circle as well as the total number of holes. The ratio between these is an estimate of the ratio between the area of the quarter circle and the area of a square, or in other words pi/4. So multiplying this number by 4 will give you an estimate of pi. That's a process known as a Monte Carlo approximation and it is complicated by factors such as the distribution of the pellets not being random. But the mathematicians show how to handle these too. The result? According to this method, pi is 3.13, which is just 0.33 per cent off the true value. Handy if you find yourself in a post-apocalyptic world."
Space

Pluto May Have Deep Seas and Ancient Tectonic Faults 47

Posted by samzenpus
from the mi-go-beach dept.
astroengine (1577233) writes "In July 2015 we get our first close look at the dwarf planet Pluto and its moon, Charon — a fact that has scientists hypothesizing more than ever about what we might see there. One of the latest ideas put forward is that perhaps the collision that likely formed Pluto and Charon heated the interior of Pluto enough to give it an internal liquid water ocean, which also gave the small world a short-lived plate tectonics system, like that of Earth."
Earth

UN: Renewables, Nuclear Must Triple To Save Climate 431

Posted by samzenpus
from the its-getting-hot-in-here dept.
An anonymous reader writes "On the heels of a study that concluded there was less than a 1% chance that current global warming could be simple fluctuations, U.N. scientists say energy from renewables, nuclear reactors and power plants that use emissions-capture technology needs to triple in order keep climate change within safe limits. From The Washington Post: 'During a news conference Sunday, another co-chair, Rajendra K. Pachauri of India, said the goal of limiting a rise in global temperatures "cannot be achieved without cooperation." He added, "What comes out very clearly from this report is that the high-speed mitigation train needs to leave the station soon, and all of global society needs to get on board."'"
PC Games (Games)

Civilization: Beyond Earth Announced 85

Posted by Soulskill
from the montezuma-takes-over-the-universe dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Today at PAX East, Firaxis announced Civilization: Beyond Earth. It's a new Civ game inspired by their sci-fi strategy classic Alpha Centauri. Beyond Earth is currently planned to launch this year on the PC. According to Game Informer: 'Beyond Earth presents an opportunity for Firaxis to throw off the shackles of human history and give players the chance to sculpt their own destinies. Civilization games typically have a set endpoint at humanities modern age, but Beyond Earth has given Firaxis the opportunity and the challenge of creating a greater sense of freedom. ... The five different victory conditions that represent that next major event in human history are tied to the new technology web. At the start of the game, players will choose leaders and factions (no longer bundled with one another) and choose colonists and equipment to settle the land. Once descending from orbit, the technology web allows players to move in a number of directions.'"
Earth

Study Rules Out Global Warming Being a Natural Fluctuation With 99% Certainty 856

Posted by Soulskill
from the let's-blame-the-dinosaurs dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A study out of McGill University sought to examine historical temperature data going back 500 years in order to determine the likelihood that global warming was caused by natural fluctuations in the earth's climate. The study concluded there was less than a 1% chance the warming could be attributed to simple fluctuations. 'The climate reconstructions take into account a variety of gauges found in nature, such as tree rings, ice cores, and lake sediments. And the fluctuation-analysis techniques make it possible to understand the temperature variations over wide ranges of time scales. For the industrial era, Lovejoy's analysis uses carbon-dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels as a proxy for all man-made climate influences – a simplification justified by the tight relationship between global economic activity and the emission of greenhouse gases and particulate pollution, he says. ... His study [also] predicts, with 95% confidence, that a doubling of carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere would cause the climate to warm by between 2.5 and 4.2 degrees Celsius. That range is more precise than – but in line with — the IPCC's prediction that temperatures would rise by 1.5 to 4.5 degrees Celsius if CO2 concentrations double.'"
Earth

93 Harvard Faculty Members Call On the University To Divest From Fossil Fuels 214

Posted by samzenpus
from the stop-burning-bro dept.
Daniel_Stuckey writes: "One hundred faculty members at one of the nation's most renowned university have signed an open letter calling on Harvard to divest its holdings in fossil fuel companies. Harvard's is the largest university endowment in the world. For the last few years, a national movement has called on on universities, foundations, and municipalities to divest from fossil fuels. Led by students, as well as organized groups like 350.org, it has seen a number of significant victories — at least nine colleges and over a dozen cities have pulled their investments in companies that extract or burn fossil fuels like coal and oil."
Movies

Scientists/Actress Say They Were 'Tricked' Into Geocentric Universe Movie 640

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-never-heard-of-such-a-thing-and-even-if-I-did-I-don't-remember-when dept.
EwanPalmer (2536690) writes "Three scientists and Star Trek actress Kate Mulgrew say they were duped into appearing in a controversial documentary which claims the Earth is the center of the Universe. The Principle, a film which describes itself as 'destined to become one of the most controversial films of our time', argues the long-debunked theory of geocentrism – where the earth is the center of the Universe and the Sun resolves around it – is true and Nasa has tried to cover it up. The film features the narration of actress Mulgrew, who played the part of captain Kathryn Janeway in Star Trek Voyager, as well as three prominent scientists."
Space

Last Month's "Planet X" Announcement Was Probably Wrong 44

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the science-ruins-everything dept.
KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "Last month, astronomers announced the discovery of the most distant body in the Solar System, a dwarf planet called 2012VP113. They also said this body's orbit was strangely aligned with several other dwarf planets in the Kuiper Belt and that this could be the result of these bodies being herded by a much larger Planet X even further from the Sun. They calculated that this hidden planet could be between 2 and 15 times the mass of the Earth and orbiting at a distance of between 200 AU and 300 AU, an announcement that triggered excited headlines around the world. Now it looks as though these predictions were wildly optimistic. It turns out that the position of Planet X can be constrained more tightly using orbital measurements of other planets. And when this data is added into the mix, Planet X can only only orbit at much greater distances, if it exists at all. The new calculations suggest that a planet twice the mass of Earth cannot orbit any closer than about 500 AU. And a planet 15 times the mass of Earth must be at least 1000 AU distant. What's more, the New Horizons mission currently on its way to Pluto, should constrain the distance to beyond 4700 AU. So any Planet X hunters out there are likely to be disappointed."
Mars

Will Living On Mars Drive Us Crazy? 150

Posted by samzenpus
from the can't-you-hear-them?-didn't-you-see-the-crowd? dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "When astronauts first began flying in space, NASA worried about 'space madness,' a mental malady they thought might arise from humans experiencing microgravity and claustrophobic isolation inside of a cramped spacecraft high above the Earth. Now Megan Garber writes in The Atlantic that NASA is hoping to find out what life on Mars does to the human emotional state by putting three men and three women in a 1,000-square-foot habitat shaped like a dome for four months. The volunteers in the second HI-SEAS mission — a purposely tiny group selected out of a group of 700 applicants — include, among others, a neuropsychologist, an aerospace engineer, and an Air Force veteran who is studying human factors in aviation. 'We're going to stress them,' says Kim Binsted, the project's principal investigator. 'That's the nature of the study.' That test involves isolating the crew in the same way they'd be isolated on Mars. The only communication they'll be allowed with the outside world—that is to say, with their family and friends—will be conducted through email. (And that will be given an artificial delay of 20 minutes to simulate the lag involved in Mars-to-Earth communications.)

If that doesn't seem too stressful, here's another source of stress: Each mission member will get only eight minutes of shower time ... per week. The stress will be compounded by the fact that the only time the crew will be able to leave their habitat-yurt is when they're wearing puffy, insulated uniforms that simulate space suits. In the Hawaiian heat. Throughout the mission, researchers will be testing the subjects' moods and the changes they exhibit in their relationships with each other. They'll also be examining the crew members' cognitive skills, seeing whether—and how—they change as the experiment wears on. Binsted says the mission has gotten the attention of the TV world but don't expect to see much inside-the-dome footage. 'You wouldn't believe the number of producers who called us,' says Binsted. 'Fortunately, we're not ethically allowed to subject our crew to that kind of thing.'"
Space

Saturn's Moon Enceladus Has Underground Ocean 51

Posted by samzenpus
from the water-at-the-bottom-of-the-ocean dept.
astroengine (1577233) writes "Gravity measurements made with the Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft indicate the small moon Enceladus has an ocean sandwiched between its rocky core and icy shell, a finding that raises the prospects of a niche for life beyond Earth. The Cassini data shows the body of water, which is in the moon's southern hemisphere, must be as large or larger than Lake Superior and sitting on top of the moon's rocky core at a depth of about 31 miles. 'The ocean may extend halfway or more toward the equator in every direction,' said planetary scientist David Stevenson, with the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena."
Earth

How a 'Seismic Cloak' Could Slow Down an Earthquake 101

Posted by Soulskill
from the shake-rattle-and-roll dept.
Daniel_Stuckey writes "The United States is currently gripped in a bout of earthquake mania, following a series of significant tremors in the West. And any time Yellowstone, LA, or San Francisco shakes, people start to wonder if it's a sign of The Big One to come. Yet even after decades of research, earthquake prediction remains notoriously hard, and not every building in quake-prone areas has an earthquake-resistant design. What if, instead of quaking in our boots, we could stop quakes in their tracks? Theoretically, it's not a crazy idea. Earthquakes propagate in waves, and if noise-canceling headphones have taught us anything, it's that waves can be absorbed, reflected, or canceled out. Today, a paper published in Physical Review Letters suggests how that might be done. It's the result of French research into the use of metamaterials—broadly, materials with properties not found in nature—to modify seismic waves, like a seismic cloaking device."
Earth

UN Report: Climate Changes Overwhelming 987

Posted by samzenpus
from the it's-getting-hot-in-here dept.
iONiUM (530420) writes "'The impacts of global warming are likely to be "severe, pervasive and irreversible", a major report by the UN has warned.' A document was released by the IPCC outlining the current affects on climate change, and they are not good. For specific effects on humans: 'Food security is highlighted as an area of significant concern. Crop yields for maize, rice and wheat are all hit in the period up to 2050, with around a tenth of projections showing losses over 25%.'"

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