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Fermi and Swift Observe Record-setting Gamma Ray Burst 107 107

symbolset writes " shares a visual image of a 'shockingly bright' gamma ray burst observed April 27th, labelled GRB 130427A and subsequently observed by ground optical and radio telescopes. One gamma ray photon from the event measured 94 billion electron volts — three times the previous record. The burst lasted four hours and was observable for most of a day — another record. Typical duration of a gamma ray burst is from 10 milliseconds to a few minutes. Astronomers will now train optical telescopes on the spot searching for the supernova expected to have caused it — typically one is observed some few days after the burst. They expect to find one by the middle of May. The event occurred about 3.6 billion lightyears distant which is fairly close as gamma ray bursts go. Click on the GIF to view the actual burst."

Firefox Is the First Browser To Pass the MathML Acid2 Test 134 134

An anonymous reader writes "Frédéric Wang, an engineer at the MathJax project, reports that the latest nightly build of Firefox now passes the MathML Acid2 test. Screenshots in his post show a comparison with the latest nightly Chrome Canary, and it's not pretty. He writes 'Google developers forked Webkit and decided to remove from Blink all the code (including MathML) on which they don't plan to work in the short term.'"

EPA: No Single Cause For Colony Collapse Disorder 129 129

alphatel writes "Citing a wide range of symptoms, a federal report (PDF) released yesterday has concluded that no single event, pesticide or virus can be held responsible for CCD in North American bee colonies. Meanwhile, Europe has moved towards banning neocotinids for two years. EPA's Jim Jones stated, 'There are non-trivial costs to society if we get this wrong. There are meaningful benefits from these pesticides to farmers and to consumers, as well as for affordable food.' May R. Berenbaum, head of the department of entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a participant in the study, said, 'There is no quick fix. Patching one hole in a boat that leaks everywhere is not going to keep it from sinking.'"

New Device Sniffs Out Black Powder Explosives 133 133

sciencehabit writes "The Boston marathon bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev reportedly purchased several pounds of black powder explosive before the bombing. Used in fireworks and bullets, the explosive substance is both deadly and widely available. It's also very hard to detect. Now, researchers have modified one bomb-sniffing device to accurately spot very small amounts of black powder, an advance that could make us safer from future attacks. What has prevented detection of black powder by IMS in the past, however, is that sulfur and oxygen -- which composes 20% of air—hit the detector at almost the same time. A strong oxygen signal can thus mask a small amount of sulfur, like what a bombmaker's dirty fingers might leave on a luggage strap. A group led by chemist Haiyang Li at the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics in China modified an IMS to eliminate the oxygen signal. 'We have tested the sensitivity of TR-IMS, and its limit of detection of black powder can reach as low as 0.05 nanograms,' Li says."

Living In a Virtual World Requires Less Brain Power 89 89

sciencehabit writes "If you were a rat living in a completely virtual world like in the movie The Matrix, could you tell? Maybe not, but scientists studying your brain might be able to. Today, researchers report that certain cells in rat brains work differently when the animals are in virtual reality than when they are in the real world. In the experiment, rats anchored to the top of a ball ran in place as movie-like images around them changed, creating the impression that they were running along a track. Their sense of place relied on visual cues from the projections and their self-motion cues, but they had to do without proximal cues like sound and smell. The rodents used half as many neurons to navigate the virtual world as they did the real one."

Our Solar System: Rare Species In Cosmic Zoo 197 197

astroengine writes "Pulling from 20 years of research since the first discoveries of planets beyond our solar system, scientists have concluded that Earth and its sibling worlds comprise what appears to be a relatively rare breed in a diverse cosmic zoo that includes a huge variety of planet sizes, orbits and parent stars. The most common systems contain one or more planets one to three times bigger than Earth, all orbiting much closer to their parent stars than Earth circles the sun, says astronomer Andrew Howard, with the University of Hawaii."

Repeal of Louisiana Science Education Act Rejected 318 318

egjertse writes "A Louisiana law that opponents say leaves the backdoor open to teaching 'creationism' in public schools will stay on the books after a Senate committee Wednesday effectively killed a bill that would repeal the statute. After hours of testimony for and against House Bill 26, which repeals the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act, the senators narrowly deferred the legislation, effectively killing it in committee. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans."

IBM Researchers Open Source Homomorphic Crypto Library 130 130

mikejuk writes with news of an advancement for homomorphic encryption and open source: "To be fully homomorphic the code has to be such that a third party can add and multiply numbers that it contains without needing to decrypt it. In other words they can change the data by working with just the encrypted version. This may sound like magic but a fully homomorphic scheme was invented in 2009 by Craig Gentry. This was a step in the right direction but the problem was that it is very inefficient and computationally intensive. Since then there have been a number of improvements that make the scheme practical in the right situations Now Victor Shoup and Shai Halevi of the IBM T J Watson Research Center have released an open source (GPL) C++ library, HElib, as a Github project. The code is said to incorporate many optimizations to make the encryption run faster. Homomorphic encryption has the potential to revolutionize security by allowing operations on data without the need to decrypt it."

Florida Teen Expelled and Arrested For Science Experiment 1078 1078

First time accepted submitter ruhri writes "A 16 year-old girl in Florida not only has been expelled from her high school but also is being charged as an adult with a felony after replicating the classic toilet-bowl cleaner and aluminum foil experiment. This has quite a number of scientists and science educators up in arms. The fact that she's African American and that the same assistant state attorney has decided not to charge a white teenager who accidentally killed his brother with a BB gun has some thinking whether this is a case of doing science while black."

New Camera Inspired By Insect Eyes 35 35

sciencehabit writes "An insect's compound eye is an engineering marvel: high resolution, wide field of view, and incredible sensitivity to motion, all in a compact package. Now, a new digital camera provides the best-ever imitation of a bug's vision, using new optical materials and techniques. This technology could someday give patrolling surveillance drones the same exquisite vision as a dragonfly on the hunt."

Building New Materials With Light 27 27

ckwu writes "Since the 1970s, physicists have used laser beams to trap and study small objects, from cells down to individual atoms. Now, electrical engineers at the University of Southern California have developed a simple optical system that assembles hundreds of nanoparticles into two-dimensional structures using a single laser beam and a silicon photonic crystal. This compact optical trap fits on a small chip and could eventually help researchers make materials for new types of sensors, optical devices, and chemical filters."

NASA's Fermi Spacecraft Dodged a Defunct Russian Satellite 47 47

g01d4 writes "On March 29, 2012, NASA scientists learned that the space agency's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope was headed for a potential conjunction (close approach) with Cosmos 1805, a defunct Russian satellite from the Cold War era. The team knew that the only way to move Fermi would be to fire thrusters designed to move the spacecraft out of orbit at the end of its operating life. On April 3rd, shortly after noon EDT, the space agency fired all thrusters for one second. When it was over, everyone involved 'just sighed with relief that it all went well.' By 1 p.m., the spacecraft had returned to its mission."

Physicists Attempting To Test 'Time Crystals' 231 231

ceview writes "This story at Wired seems to have lots of people a bit confused: 'In February 2012, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Frank Wilczek decided to go public with a strange and, he worried, somewhat embarrassing idea. Impossible as it seemed, Wilczek had developed an apparent proof of "time crystals" — physical structures that move in a repeating pattern, like minute hands rounding clocks, without expending energy or ever winding down. ... [A] Berkeley-led team will attempt to build a time crystal by injecting 100 calcium ions into a small chamber surrounded by electrodes. The electric field generated by the electrodes will corral the ions in a "trap" 100 microns wide, or roughly the width of a human hair. The scientists must precisely calibrate the electrodes to smooth out the field. Because like charges repel, the ions will space themselves evenly around the outer edge of the trap, forming a crystalline ring.' The experimental set up is incredibly delicate (Bose Einstein Condensate), so it implies this perpetual motion effect can't really be used to extract energy. What is your take on it? It's unlike to upend anything, as the article suggests, because at a quantum level things behave weirdly at the best of times. The heavy details are available at the arXiv."

Does Antimatter Fall Up? 255 255

New submitter Doug Otto sends word that researchers working on the ALPHA experiment at CERN are trying to figure out whether antimatter interacts with gravity in the same way that normal matter does. The ALPHA experiment wasn't designed to test for this, but they realized part of it — an antihydrogen trap — is suitable to collect some data. Their preliminary results: uncertain, but they can't rule it out. From the article: "Antihydrogen provides a particularly useful means of testing gravitational effects on antimatter, as it's electrically neutral. Gravity is by far the weakest force in nature, so it's very easy for its effects to be swamped by other interactions. Even with neutral particles or atoms, the antimatter must be moving slowly enough to perform measurements. And slow rates of motion increase the likelihood of encountering matter particles, leading to mutual annihilation and an end to the experiment. However, it's a challenge to maintain any antihydrogen long enough to perform meaningful experiments on it, regardless of its speed. ... The authors of the current study realized that [antiatoms trapped in ALPHA] eventually escaped or were released from this magnetic trap. At that point, they were momentarily in free-fall, experiencing no force other than gravity. The detectors on the outside of ALPHA could then determine if the antihydrogen was rising or falling under gravity's influence, and whether the magnitude of the force was equivalent to the effect on matter."

Speeding Object Makes Small Hole In the ISS Solar Array 119 119

New submitter cute_orc writes "The International Space Station has been hit by a small object. Chris Hadfield, an astronaut currently on the ISS, described it in his Twitter feed as 'a small stone from the universe.' He also said he was glad it didn't hit the hull. Jim Scotti, a planetary scientist from the University of Arizona, thinks the object may have had a different origin: 'It's unlikely this was caused by a meteor; more likely a piece of man-made space debris in low Earth orbit.'"

Richard Branson Plans Orbital Spaceships For Virgin Galactic 177 177

Velcroman1 writes "Following the historic first rocket-powered flight of its SpaceShipTwo vehicle, Virgin Galactic plans to build a fleet of spaceships and begin ferrying hundreds of tourists into space in 2014. And then? A whole new kind of spacecraft, Sir Richard Branson said. 'We'll be building orbital spaceships after that,' Branson told Fox News Tuesday, 'so that people who want to go for a week or two can.' Assuming the cost is on the same scale, would you pay a few hundred grand for a few weeks in orbit?"

Helium Depleted, Herschel Space Telescope Mission Ends 204 204

AmiMoJo writes "The billion-euro Herschel observatory has run out of the liquid helium needed to keep its instruments and detectors at their ultra-low functioning temperature. This equipment has now warmed, meaning the telescope cannot see the sky. Its 3.5m mirror and three state-of-the-art instruments made it the most powerful observatory of its kind ever put in space, but astronomers always knew the helium store onboard would be a time-limiting factor." Reader etash points to a collection of some infrared imagery that Herschel collected.

SOPA Creator Now In Charge of NSF Grants 307 307

sl4shd0rk writes "Remember SOPA? If not, perhaps the name Lamar Smith will ring a bell. The U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology chose Smith to Chair as an overseer for the National Science Foundation's funding process. Smith is preparing a bill (PDF) which will require that every grant must benefit 'national defense,' be of 'utmost importance to society,' and not be 'duplicative of other research.' Duplicating research seems reasonable until you consider that this could also mean the NSF will not provide funding for research once someone has already provided results — manufactured or otherwise. A strange target since there is a process in place which makes an effort to limit duplicate funding already. The first and second requirements, even when read in context, still miss the point of basic research. If we were absolutely without-a-doubt-certain of the results, there would be little point in doing the research in the first place."