Space

Giant Magellan Telescope Set To Revolutionize Ground-Based Astronomy 24

StartsWithABang writes: If you want to see farther, deeper and at higher resolution than ever before into the Universe, you need four things: the largest aperture possible, the best-quality optical systems and cameras/CCDs, the least interference from the atmosphere, and the analytical techniques and power to make the most of every photon. While the last three have improved tremendously over the past 25 years, telescope size hasn't increased at all. That's all about to change over the next decade, as three telescopes — the Giant Magellan Telescope, the Thirty Meter Telescope and the European Extremely Large Telescope — are set to take us from 8-10 meter class astronomy to 25-40 meter class. While the latter two are fighting over funding, construction rights and other political concerns, the Giant Magellan Telescope is already under construction, and is poised to be the first in line to begin the future of ground-based astronomy.
Input Devices

Let Your Pupils Do the Typing 32

New submitter s.mathot writes: Researchers from France and the Netherlands have developed a way to—literally—write text by thinking of letters. (Academic paper [open access], non-technical blog, YouTube video.) This technique relies on small changes in pupil size that occur when you covertly (from the corner of your eye; without moving your eyes or body) attend to bright or dark objects. By presenting a virtual keyboard on which the 'keys' alternate in brightness, and simultaneously measuring the size of the eye's pupil, the technique automatically determines which letter you want to write; as a result, you can write letters by merely attending to them, without moving any part of your body, including the eyes.
Moon

Apollo Astronaut Edgar Mitchell, Sixth Man On the Moon, Dies At 85 (examiner.com) 104

MarkWhittington writes: According to a story in the Palm Beach Post, Edgar Mitchell, the sixth man to walk on the moon, has died at the age of 85. He flew as lunar module pilot on board Apollo 14, which flew to and from the moon between January 31, 1971 and February 9, 1971. His crewmates were Alan Shepard and Stuart Roosa. Apollo 14 was the return to flight for the moon landing program after the near disaster of Apollo 13 in April 1970, and explored the Fra Mauro highlands on the lunar surface. NASA marks Mitchell's passing as well.
Science

Wendelstein 7-X Fusion Reactor Produces Its First Flash of Hydrogen Plasma (gizmag.com) 94

Zothecula writes: Experimentation with Germany's newest fusion reactor is beginning to heat up, to temperatures of around 80 million degrees Celsius, to be precise. Having fired up the Wendelstein 7-X to produce helium plasma late last year, researchers have built on their early success to generate its first hydrogen plasma, an event they say begins the true scientific operation of the world's largest fusion stellarator.
Biotech

DNA Makes Lifeless Materials Shapeshift (sciencemag.org) 26

sciencehabit writes: Researchers have engineered tiny gold particles that can assemble into a variety of crystalline structures simply by adding a bit of DNA to the solution that surrounds them. Down the road, such reprogrammable particles could be used to make materials that reshape themselves in response to light, or to create novel catalysts that reshape themselves as reactions proceed.
Medicine

Researchers Uncover the Genetic Roots Behind Rare Vibration Allergy (vice.com) 81

derekmead writes: A team of National Health Institute researchers has for the first time uncovered the genetic roots of one of the strangest allergies: vibrations. The vibration allergy, which is just as it sounds, may be quite rare, but understanding it more completely may yield important insights into the fundamental malfunctioning of immune cells in the presence of allergens. The group's findings are published in the New England Journal of Medicine. In addition to being uncommon, the vibration allergy is not very dangerous. In most cases, the allergic response is limited to hives—the pale, prickly rash most often associated with allergic and autoimmune reactions. Other less-common symptoms include headaches, blurry vision, fatigue, and flushing. The triggering vibrations are everyday things: jogging, jackhammering, riding a motorcycle, towel drying. Symptoms appear within a few minutes of exposure and are gone usually within an hour.
Science

Don't Hate Perky Morning People: It Might Be Their DNA's Fault. (arstechnica.com) 109

New submitter Striek writes: Aggregated genome data from 23andme.com was analyzed and published in Nature magazine, and now further evidence has been added to the belief that being a morning person or a night owl is wired in our DNA. It's not the first time such research has been published, either. So those of us who work late into the night and prefer to rise at noon, much to the chagrin of our partners, can point to our DNA as the reason, not our lazy habits.
Medicine

To Respond To a Disease Outbreak, Bring In the Portable Genome Sequencers (ieee.org) 33

the_newsbeagle writes: Epidemiologists working on Zika virus could benefit from portable genome sequencers, like these used during the Ebola outbreak. In spring 2015, researchers conducted the first experiment in real-time genetic surveillance during an infectious disease epidemic. The researchers packed all their equipment in a couple of suitcases and set up a mobile lab in Guinea, where they used palm-sized sequencing devices to analyze viral RNA from 142 patients. Genomic data can illuminate the chains of transmission in an outbreak, and can help scientists develop diagnostics and vaccines.
Mars

Congressional Testimony Says NASA Has No Plan For the Journey To Mars (blastingnews.com) 306

MarkWhittington writes: Testimony at a hearing before the House Science Committee's Subcommittee on Space suggested that NASA's Journey to Mars lacks a plan to achieve the first human landing on the Red Planet, almost six years after President Obama announced the goal on April 15, 2010. Moreover, two of the three witnesses argued that a more realistic near term goal for the space agency would be a return to the moon. The moon is not only a scientifically interesting and potentially commercially profitable place to go but access to lunar water, which can be refined into rocket fuel, would make the Journey to Mars easier and cheaper.
Medicine

Cheap At $40,000: Phoenix Exoskeleton Gives Paraplegics Legs to Walk With 37

Fast Company highlights the cheap-for-the-price Phoenix exoskeleton, created by University of California Berkeley professor (and Berkeley Robotics and Human Engineering Laboratory director) Homayoon Kazerooni and a team of his former grad students at SuitX, a company Kazerooni founded in 2013. Set to sell for $40,000 when it goes on sale next month, the Phoenix sounds expensive -- except compared to the alternatives. For paraplegic patients, there are a handful of other powered exoskeletons, but they cost much more, and are engineered for more than the modest goals of the Phoenix, which allows only one thing: slow walking on level ground. That limited objective means that the rig is light (27 pounds), and relatively unobtrusive. Kazerooni says that he'd like the price to go down much further, too, noting that all the technology in a modern motorcyle can be had for the quarter of the price. A slice: [The] only driving motors in Phoenix are at the hip joints. When the user hits a forward button on their crutches, their left hip swings forward. At this moment, the onboard computer signals the knee to become loose, flex, and clear the ground. As the foot hits, the knee joint stiffens again to support the leg. This computer-choreographed process repeats for the right leg. As it happens, this hinged knee joint has another benefit. If the wearer hits something midstep, like a rock or a curb, a powered knee would blindly drive the leg forward anyway, likely leading to a fall. The hinge naturally absorbs such resistance and allows the wearer a chance to compensate.
Moon

Russia Begins Work On a Lunar Lander (examiner.com) 89

MarkWhittington writes: Whether and when Russia will try to send cosmonauts to the moon is an open question. The Putin government has heavily slashed spending on the Russian space program, a measure brought on by declining oil and gas revenues. But, as Popular Mechanics reports, Russian engineers have gone ahead and have started to design a lunar lander for the eventual Russian lunar surface effort. When money is going to be forthcoming for such a vehicle is unknown, though Russia could partner with another country with lunar ambitions, such as China or the European Union.
Biotech

Ethics Panel Endorses Mitochondrial Therapy, But Says Start With Male Embryos (sciencemag.org) 124

sciencehabit writes: An experimental assisted reproduction technique that could allow some families to avoid having children with certain types of heritable disease should be allowed to go forward in the United States, provided it proceeds slowly and cautiously. That is the conclusion of a report released today from a panel organized by the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS), which assesses the ethics questions surrounding the controversial technique called mitochondrial DNA replacement therapy. More controversially, however, the panel recommended that only altered male embryos should be used to attempt a pregnancy, to limit the possible risks to future generations. (Males can't pass along the mitochondrial DNA that is altered in the procedure.)
Communications

Receiving Real-Time Imagery From Russia's Meteor-M N2 Satellite 26

An anonymous reader writes: The Meteor-M N2 is a low orbit Russian weather satellite which broadcasts live weather satellite images, similar to the APT images produced by the NOAA satellites. But Meteor digital images are however much better as they are transmitted as a digital signal with an image resolution 12x greater than the aging analog NOAA APT signals. Radio enthusiasts are receiving images with hacked cheap digital TV dongles. There is even the AMIGOS project which stands for Amateur Meteor Images Global Observation System: users around the world can contribute Meteor images through the internet to create worldwide real-time coverage.
Democrats

Perfect Coin-Toss Record Broke 6 Clinton-Sanders Deadlocks In Iowa (marketwatch.com) 634

schwit1 writes: While it was hard to call a winner between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders last night, it's easy to say who was luckier. The race between the Democrat presidential hopefuls was so tight in the Iowa caucus Monday that in at least six precincts, the decision on awarding a county delegate came down to a coin toss. And Clinton won all six, media reports said.
Moon

China's Chang'e 3 Lander and Yutu Rover Camera Data Released 56

AmiMoJo writes: Detailed high resolution images from the recent Chinese moon mission have been released. Links to the original Chinese sites hosting the images are available, but Emily Lakdawalla of the Planetary Society has kindly organized them in English. Images show the lander, the rover and the surface of the earth. An interactive map is also available, built from data collected by the mission.
NASA

AnonSec Attempts To Crash $222m Drone, Releases Secret Flight Videos (ibtimes.co.uk) 133

An anonymous reader writes with an excerpt from IBTimes that says it's not just governments that have proven themselves capable of hacking into drones: Hackers from the AnonSec group who spent several months hacking NASA have released a huge data dump and revealed they tried to bring down a $222m Global Hawk drone into the Pacific Ocean. The hack included employee personal details, flight logs and video footage collected from unmanned and manned aircraft. The 250GB data dump contained the names, email addresses and phone numbers of 2,414 NASA employees, 2,143 flight logs and 631 videos taken from Nasa aircraft and radar feeds, as well as a self-published paper (known as a 'zine') from the group explaining the extensive technical vulnerabilities that the hackers were able to breach. Among these: the group discovered that the flight paths uploaded into each drone could be replaced with their own.
Biotech

U.K. Researcher Receives Permission To Edit Genes In Human Embryos (sciencemag.org) 64

sciencehabit writes: Developmental biologist Kathy Niakan has received permission from U.K. authorities to modify human embryos using the CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology. Niakan, who works at the Francis Crick Institute in London, applied for permission to use the technique in studies to better understand the role of key genes during the first few days of human embryo development.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which grants licenses for work with human embryos, sperm, and eggs in the United Kingdom, approved Niakan's application at a meeting of HFEA's license committee on 14 January. The minutes of that meeting state that, '[o]n balance, the proposed use of CRISPR/Cas9 was considered by the Committee to offer better potential for success, and was a justified technical approach to obtaining research data about gene function from the embryos used.'

Technology

Graphene Optical Lens a Billionth of a Meter Thick Breaks the Diffraction Limit (gizmag.com) 126

Zothecula writes: With the development of photonic chips and nano-optics, the old ground glass lenses can't keep up in the race toward miniaturization. In the search for a suitable replacement, a team from the Swinburne University of Technology has developed a graphene microlens one billionth of a meter thick that can take sharper images of objects the size of a single bacterium and opens the door to improved mobile phones, nanosatellites, and computers.
NASA

Tiny Pluto Big On Frozen Water Reserves 49

New submitter rmdingler writes that a new map created by NASA based on the New Horizons flyby of Pluto "shows much more frozen water than scientists initially expected." Using LEISA to photograph from 108,000 kilometers away, much more of the recently demoted planet's frozen surface liquid is water, rather than methane, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen as originally posited.

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