MarkWhittington writes "Project M was a proposal at NASA's Johnson Spaceflight Center that would have put together a mission to deliver a bipedal robot to the lunar surface within a thousand days. The idea never got out of the conception stage, but two major components, a new type of lunar lander, now called Morpheus, and a robonaut continued on as separate projects. Morpheus is getting ready to conduct a second attempt at free flight tests at the Kennedy Space Center. The first attempt resulted in the destruction of the prototype vehicle. If the second round of tests is successful, NASA will have a spacecraft that could deliver 1,100 pounds of payload to the lunar surface. While a copy of Robonaut 2 is still undergoing tests on board the International Space Station, ABC News reports that a cousin of the mechanical person has been built with legs. It stands eight feet tall and weighs 500 pounds. With two major components of Project M nearing completion, could a robonaut become the next moon walker?"
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
An anonymous reader writes "A new study of asteroid craters on the moon has uncovered some big differences in the composition of the crust on the two sides of the moon. 'While massive impact basins pockmark the moon's near side, its far side contains considerably smaller basins. The discrepancy in crater distribution has puzzled scientists for decades. To investigate what may have caused this difference, the team obtained data from NASA's twin GRAIL probes, which orbited the moon from January to December 2012. During its mission, the probes circled the moon, making measurements of its gravity. Zuber and her colleagues used this data to generate a highly detailed map of the moon's crust, showing areas where the crust thickens and thins; in general, the group observed that the moon's near side has a thinner crust than its far side.'"
rtoz writes "Two Russian cosmonauts have taken the torch for the Sochi Winter Olympics on its first historic spacewalk. Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky took the unlit version of the torch through the hatch of the International Space Station. The Olympic torch has been carried into space twice before – in 1996 and 2000 – but it has never left a spaceship. It was not lit aboard the space station as this would consume oxygen and pose a risk to the crew."
Virtucon writes "The Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer or GOCE Satellite is expected to fall to Earth this weekend. It weighs over a ton and unfortunately the Scientists don't exactly know where it will land. You can track it here. It should re-enter sometime between Sunday night and Monday morning. Makr Hopkins, chair of the National Society's Executive Committee said: 'The satellite is one of the few satellites in a Polar Orbit. Consequently, it could land almost anywhere.' The GOCE mission was to create an accurate gravity map of the Earth."
sciencehabit writes "Marlene Thielecke came to Madagascar to study the sand flea, an insect that spends part of its life cycle burrowed into the human foot — but she wound up getting more intimate with the critter than she cared for. Months into her project, Thieleckewas bitten by a flea herself. She decided to make the best of it, by taking regular photographs and videos and keeping track of her observations. 'I thought it might be interesting' to watch what happened, she says. As it turns out, her experience may help resolve an question entomologists have debated foor decades: Where, exactly, does the sand flea have sex?"
KentuckyFC writes "One of the central concepts in quantum theory is wave-particle duality — that every object can be thought of as a particle and a wave. Indeed every object has a quantum wavelength associated with it and so can form a quantum superposition with itself. That's easy to demonstrate with fundamental particles such as photons and electrons by passing a beam of them through a double slit and watching the interference pattern that forms on the other side. In this way, physicists have observed the interference patterns associated with atoms and even molecules such as buckyballs. Now, a group at the University of Vienna has observed the interference pattern formed by the quantum superposition of molecules containing over 800 atoms, or around 5,000 protons, 5,000 neutrons and 5,000 electrons. That's the most macroscopic occurrence of wave-particle duality ever observed, they say."
dcblogs writes "U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has released 175 pages of "War Room" notes — a collection of notes by federal officials dealing with the problems at Healthcare.gov. They start Oct. 1, the launch day. The War Room notes catalog IT problems — dashboards weren't showing data, servers didn't have the right production data, third party systems weren't connecting to verify data, a key contractor had trouble logging on, and there wasn't enough server capacity to handle the traffic, or enough people on the help desks to answer calls. To top it off, some personnel needed for the effort were furloughed because of the shutdown. Volunteers were needed to work weekends, but there were bureaucratic complications."
coondoggie writes "Many images from deep space are so cool, weird and unusual it is hard to believe they are real sometimes. This is one of them. Astronomers looking deep into the asteroid belt through NASA's Hubble Space Telescope say they have spotted an asteroid, designated P/2013 P5, with six comet-like tails of dust radiating from it like spokes on a wheel or a spinning garden sprinkler."
sciencehabit writes "Science Magazine has posted the 12 finalist videos from its annual Dance Your PhD contest. The contest asks scientists from around the world to send in videos of themselves interpreting their research in dance form. As usual, this year's finalists have gone all out with some wacky, fun, and just plain bizarre videos. You can vote for your favorite, with the winner and reader's choice announced on November 21."
Copenhagen Suborbitals says their mission is "very simple. We are working towards launching a human being into space." That doesn't sound so simple, really, but they're approaching this gargantuan task with an intentionally simple approach: a small team, relatively unhampered by bureaucratic hassles, who are taking advantage of existing, off-the-shelf high-tech solutions when they make sense, and low-tech solutions when possible; if the parable of the Soviet space pencil hadn't worked its way into the mythology of space technology, it could have been based on the Copenhagen Suborbitals point of view. I talked with project co-founder Kristian von Bengston about the project's progress so far, as well as what the next steps are. Among those next steps: in summer 2014, the Suborbitals team plans to launch their HEAT2X lift vehicle loaded with the TDS-80 capsule; you can download the preliminary trajectory projections for both the launcher and the capsule.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Karla Cripps reports at CNN that a combination of overfishing, warming water, low oxygen and pollution are creating perfect conditions for jellyfish to multiply. "The jellyfish seem to be the ones that are flourishing in this while everything else is suffering," says Australian jellyfish researcher Lisa-ann Gershwin. In 2000, a bloom of sea tomato jellyfish in Australia was so enormous — it stretched for more than 1,000 miles from north to south — that it was even visible from space. While most blooms are not quite that big, Gershwin's survey of research on jellyfish from the last few decades indicate that populations are most likely on the rise, and that this boom is taking place in an ocean that is faced with overfishing, acid rain, nutrient pollution from fertilizers and climate change, among other problems. This past summer, southern Europe experienced one of its worst jellyfish infestations ever. Experts there have been reporting a steady increase in the number of jellyfish in the Mediterranean Sea for years. With more than 2,000 species of jellyfish swimming through the world's waters, most stings are completely harmless, some will leave you in excruciating pain, then there are the killers. There are several species of big box jellyfish that have caused many deaths — these include chironex fleckeri in Australia, known as the "most lethal jellyfish in the world whose sting can kill in three minutes. "Just the lightest brush — you don't even feel it — and then, whammo, you're in more pain than you ever could have imagined, and you are struggling to breathe and you can't move your limbs and you can't stop vomiting and your blood pressure just keeps going up and up," says Gershwin. "It is really surprising how many places they occur around the world — places you would never expect: Hawaii, Caribbean, Florida, Wales, New Caledonia, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, India ... as well as Australia.""
Nerval's Lobster writes "A government official who helped oversee the bug-riddled Healthcare.gov Website has resigned his post. Tony Trenkle, Chief Information Officer (CIO) for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees Healthcare.gov, will reportedly join the private sector after he departs on November 15. A spokesperson for the Medicare agency refused to say whether he had been forced out, telling reporters: 'Tony made a decision that he was going to move to the private sector and that is what our COO announced yesterday.' Because of his supervisory role, Trenkle is considered a significant player in the Website's development; The New York Times indicated that he was one of two federal officials who signed an internal memo suggesting that security protocols for the Website weren't in place as recently as late September, a few days before Healthcare.gov's launch.Following Trenkle's resignation, Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius admitted to the Senate Finance Committee that Healthcare.gov would require hundreds of fixes. 'We're not where we need to be,' she said. 'It's a pretty aggressive schedule to get to the entire punch list by the end of November.' Sebelius added that she was ultimately accountable for what she termed the 'excruciatingly awful' rollout. Healthcare.gov has experienced massive problems since its Oct. 1 debut. In addition to repeated crashes and slow performance, the Website's software often prevents people from setting up accounts. President Obama has expressed intense frustration with the situation, but insists the Affordable Care Act (ACA) backing the Website remains strong. 'The essence of the law, the health insurance that's available to people is working just fine,' he told reporters in October. 'The problem has been that the website that's supposed to make it easy to apply for insurance hasn't been working.' While the federal government won't release 'official' enrollment numbers until the end of November, it's clear that the Website's backers are losing the battle of public perception."
sciencehabit writes "Researchers have for the first time devised a setup that allows monkeys to control two virtual arms with their thoughts. Two monkeys had electrodes implanted into its right and left brain hemisphere, which recorded the activity of up to 500 neurons acting together—the highest number of neurons yet used in such an experiment. The animal's task was to control the movement of two avatar arms on a computer monitor: To get a fruit juice reward, it had to place both hands over two circles and hold them there for 100 milliseconds. A computer algorithm processed the monkey's brain activity, homing in on patterns of neurons firing as it learned to do the task. Both animals' performances improved over time, and the researchers noticed that their neuronal firing patterns changed as this happened, suggesting that their brains were adapting to the brain-machine interfaces. This could be because the monkeys came to consider the virtual arms as part of their own bodies, the lead researcher suggests. 'The animals literally incorporate the avatar as if the avatar was them.'"
ananyo writes "Key members of the U.S. House of Representatives are seeking to require the National Science Foundation (NSF) to justify every grant it awards as being in the 'national interest.' The proposal, included in a draft bill from the Republican-led House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and obtained by Nature, would force the NSF to document how its basic science grants benefit the country. The requirement is similar to one in a discussion draft circulated in April by committee chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas). At the time, scientists raised concerns that 'national interest' was defined far too narrowly. The current draft bill provides a more expansive definition that includes six goals: economic competitiveness, health and welfare, scientific literacy, partnerships between academia and industry, promotion of scientific progress, and national defense. But many believe that predicting the broader impacts of basic research is tantamount to gazing into a crystal ball. 'All scientists know it's nonsense,' says John Bruer, president of James S. McDonnell Foundation and former co-chair of an NSF task force that examined requiring scientists to state the 'broader impacts' of their work in grant applications."
The Bad Astronomer writes "Using data from the Feb. 15, 2013 asteroid impact over Russia, scientists have determined that we may be hit by objects in this size range (10 — 50 meters across) more often than we previously thought, something like once every 20 years (abstract). They also found the Chelyabinsk asteroid was likely a single rock about 19 meters (60 feet) across, had a mass of 12,000 tons, and was criss-crossed with internal fractures which aided in its breakup as it rammed through the Earth's atmosphere."
New submitter hoboroadie writes "Scientific American Magazine says antibiotic-resistance genes have moved from the incubators of our hospitals and factory farms, and are spreading through diverse species in the wild. Resistance genes have been detected in crows, gulls, houseflies, moths, foxes, frogs, sharks and whales, as well as in sand and coastal water samples from California and Washington. This stuff is getting more and more like a Hollywood script everyday, n'est ce pas?"
ananyo writes "First came reports of earthquakes caused by hydraulic fracturing and the reinjection of water during oil and gas operations. Now U.S. scientists are reporting tremors may have been caused by the injection of carbon dioxide during oil production. The evidence centers on a sudden burst of seismic activity around an old oil field in the Permian Basin in northwest Texas. From 2006 to 2011, after more than two decades without any earthquakes, seismometers in the region registered 38 tremors, including 18 larger quakes ranging from magnitude 3 to 4.4, scientists report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The tremors began just two years after injections of significant volumes of CO2 began at the site, in an effort to boost oil production. 'Although you can never prove that correlation is equal to causation, certainly the most plausible explanation is that [the tremors] are related to the gas injection,' says Cliff Frohlich, a seismologist at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics in Austin, who co-authored the study."
First time accepted submitter 192_kbps writes "Mike Clements, a long-haul trucker from West Jordan, Utah, built the largest amateur telescope ever with a whopping 70 inch primary mirror he purchased at auction. The entire telescope is 35 feet tall, 900 pounds, and he hopes to tour it in parks. As a hand-turned Dobsonian the telescope lacks the photographic capacity and tracking required for professional astronomy but the views must be breathtaking." (Are there other compelling candidates out there for "largest amateur telescope ever"? The 71" scope listed by nitesky.org appears to be dormant.)
neo12 writes "India has successfully launched a spacecraft to the Red Planet — with the aim of becoming the fourth space agency to reach Mars." As our previous mention of the launch notes, getting to Mars by rocket is a long haul: if all goes well, it will be about 10 months until Mangalyaan reaches orbit.
First time accepted submitter neapolitan writes "PBS has a report on the difficulties of tracking the complications arising from surgical robotic systems, particularly the Da Vinci robotic surgery apparatus. The original study (paywall) notes that there is a large lag in filing reports, and some are not reported at all. It is difficult to assess the continued outcomes and safety without accurate reporting data."