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Space

Dark Matter Is Even More of a Mystery Than Expected 98

Posted by Soulskill
from the does-not-play-well-with-other-matter dept.
schwit1 writes: Using the Hubble and Chandra space telescopes astronomers have discovered that dark matter is not only invisible to direct observation, it is invisible to itself! Quoting: "As two galactic clusters collide, the stars, gas and dark matter interact in different ways. The clouds of gas suffer drag, slow down and often stop, whereas the stars zip past one another, unless they collide — which is rare. On studying what happens to dark matter during these collisions, the researchers realized that, like stars, the colliding clouds of dark matter have little effect on one another. Thought to be spread evenly throughout each cluster, it seems logical to assume that the clouds of dark matter would have a strong interaction — much like the colliding clouds of gas as the colliding dark matter particles should come into very close proximity. But rather than creating drag, the dark matter clouds slide through one another seamlessly." The data here is on the very edge of reality, built on too many assumptions. We know that something undetected as yet is influencing the motions of galaxies, but what exactly it is remains completely unknown. These results only make the mystery more mysterious.
The Military

US Air Force Overstepped In SpaceX Certification 57

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-ruin-this-for-us,-government dept.
Rambo Tribble writes: An internal review commissioned by Air Force Secretary Deborah James has concluded that Air Force personnel tasked with evaluating SpaceX's certification treated it as a design review, going so far as to dictate organizational changes in the company. This was judged contrary to the intention of promoting a competitive environment. The report, prepared by former Air Force Chief of Staff General Larry Welch, concluded, "The result to date has been ... the worst of all worlds, pressing the Falcon 9 commercially oriented approach into a comfortable government mold that eliminates or significantly reduces the expected benefits to the government of the commercial approach. Both teams need to adjust."
Government

GAO Denied Access To Webb Telescope Workers By Northrop Grumman 124

Posted by samzenpus
from the sorry-you-can't-come-in dept.
schwit1 writes In a report as well as at House hearings today the GAO reported that Northrop Grumman has denied them one-on-one access to workers building the James Webb Space Telescope. "The interviews, part of a running series of GAO audits of the NASA flagship observatory, which is billions of dollars overbudget and years behind schedule, were intended to identify potential future trouble spots, according to a GAO official. But Northrop Grumman Aerospace, which along with NASA says the $9 billion project is back on track, cited concerns that the employees, 30 in all, would be intimidated by the process." To give Northrop Grumman the benefit of the doubt, these interviews were a somewhat unusual request. Then again, if all was well why would they resist? Note too that the quote above says the cost of the telescope project is now $9 billion. If the project was "back on track" as the agency and Northrop Grumman claim, then why has the budget suddenly increased by another billion?
NASA

Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser Could Land At Ellington Space Port Near Houston 23

Posted by samzenpus
from the coming-soon dept.
MarkWhittington writes Despite having been rejected in NASA's commercial crew program, Sierra Nevada has been very busy trying to develop its lift body spacecraft, the Dream Chaser. Having rolled out a smaller, cargo version of the spacecraft for the second round for contracts for commercial cargo to the International Space Station, the company has amended the unfunded Space Act Agreement with NASA to add a closeout review milestone that would help transition the Dream Chaser from the preliminary design review to the critical design review step. Finally, Sierra Nevada announced a new agreement on Tuesday with the Houston Airport System to use Ellington Spaceport as a landing site for the cargo version of the Dream Chaser.
Privacy

Public Records Request Returns 4.6M License Plate Scans From Oakland PD 110

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-know-where-you-drove-last-summer dept.
schwit1 points out a report from Ars Technica on how they used a public records request to acquire an entire License Plate Reader dataset from the Oakland Police Department. The dataset includes 4.6 million total reads from 1.1 million unique plates. They built a custom visualization tool to demonstrate how this data could be abused. "For instance, during a meeting with an Oakland city council member, Ars was able to accurately guess the block where the council member lives after less than a minute of research using his license plate data. Similarly, while "working" at an Oakland bar mere blocks from Oakland police headquarters, we ran a plate from a car parked in the bar's driveway through our tool. The plate had been read 48 times over two years in two small clusters: one near the bar and a much larger cluster 24 blocks north in a residential area—likely the driver's home." Though the Oakland PD has periodically deleted data to free up space — the 4.6 million records were strewn across 18 different Excel spreadsheets with hundreds of thousands of lines each — there is no formal retention limit.
Space

Jupiter Destroyed 'Super-Earths' In Our Early Solar System 69

Posted by Soulskill
from the destroyer-of-worlds dept.
sciencehabit writes: If Jupiter and Saturn hadn't formed where they did—and at the sizes they did—as the disk of dust and gas around our sun coalesced, then our solar system would be a very different and possibly more hostile place, new research suggests (abstract). Computer models reveal that in the solar system's first 3 million years or so, gravitational interactions with Jupiter, Saturn, and the gas in the protoplanetary disk would have driven super-Earth–sized planets closer to the sun and into increasingly elliptical orbits. In such paths, a cascade of collisions would have blasted any orbs present there into ever smaller bits, which in turn would have been slowed by the interplanetary equivalent of atmospheric drag and eventually plunged into the sun. As Jupiter retreated from its closest approach to the sun, it left behind the mostly rocky remnants that later coalesced into our solar system's inner planets, including Earth.
Australia

World's Largest Asteroid Impacts Found In Central Australia 72

Posted by samzenpus
from the call-bruce-willis dept.
schwit1 writes Scientists doing geothermal research in Australia have discovered evidence of what they think is the largest known impact zone from an meteorite on Earth. The zone is thought to be about 250 miles across, and suggests the bolide split in two pieces each about 6 miles across before impact. The uncertainty is that the evidence for this impact is quite tentative: "The exact date of the impacts remains unclear. The surrounding rocks are 300 to 600 million years old, but evidence of the type left by other meteorite strikes is lacking. For example, a large meteorite strike 66 million years ago sent up a plume of ash which is found as a layer of sediment in rocks around the world. The plume is thought to have led to the extinction of a large proportion of the life on the planet, including many dinosaur species. However, a similar layer has not been found in sediments around 300 million years old, Dr Glikson said. 'It's a mystery – we can't find an extinction event that matches these collisions. I have a suspicion the impact could be older than 300 million years,' he said."
NASA

NASA's Abandoned Launch Facilities 56

Posted by samzenpus
from the lost-in-time dept.
trazom28 writes I ran across an interesting slideshow of NASA's abandoned launch facilities. It's an interesting piece of scientific history. The images are from "photographer Roland Miller's upcoming book, Abandoned in Place. The book is a visual study of the deactivated launch and research facilities that played an essential role in early American space exploration.
Space

Rosetta Spacecraft Makes Nitrogen Discovery On Comet 17

Posted by samzenpus
from the what's-that-smell dept.
An anonymous reader sends word that the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft has detected traces of molecular nitrogen on the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. "A peculiar mix of molecular nitrogen on the comet target of Europe's Rosetta spacecraft may offer clues to the conditions that gave birth to the entire solar system. Molecular nitrogen was one of the key ingredients of the young solar system. Its detection in Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, which Rosetta is currently orbiting, suggests that the comet formed under low-temperature conditions (a requirement to keeping nitrogen as ice), according to officials with the European Space Agency."
Transportation

Virgin Could Take On Tesla With Electric Car 105

Posted by timothy
from the like-a-branson dept.
According to a story at Ars Technica, Virgin empire founder Richard Branson says 'teams of people' are working on electric cars. Says the article: Virgin is working on electric cars and could one day take on Tesla, according to company founder Richard Branson. Speaking at a racing event in Miami, Branson said Virgin had "teams of people" working on electric cars but refused to be drawn on specific details. The company's Virgin Racing team already competes in the all-electric Formula E championship, a high-speed, battery-powered spinoff of Formula 1. Branson has now hinted that Virgin's involvement could lead to the company selling its own electric cars. ... Branson's business has continued to expand in recent years. As well as trains and planes, Virgin now has a fledgling space operation and is soon to launch its own cruise ships.
Education

Arkansas Is Now the First State To Require That High Schools Teach Coding 211

Posted by timothy
from the unexpected-locale dept.
SternisheFan writes Arkansas will be implementing a new law that requires public high schools to offer classes in computer science starting in the 2015-16 school year. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who signed the bill, believes it will provide "a workforce that's sure to attract businesses and jobs" to the state. $5 million of the governor's proposed budget will go towards this new program. For the districts incapable of of administering these classes due to lack of space or qualified teachers, the law has provisions for online courses to be offered through Virtual Arkansas. Although students will not be required to take computer science classes, the governor's goal is to give students the opportunity if they "want to take it." Presently, only one in 10 schools nationwide offer computer science classes. Not only will Arkansas teach these classes in every public high school and charter school serving upper grades, the courses will count towards the state's math graduation requirement as a further incentive for students. Training programs for teacher preparation will be available, but with the majority of the infrastructure already primed, the execution of this new law should hopefully be painless and seamless.
Space

How Space Can Expand Faster Than the Speed of Light 162

Posted by timothy
from the space-is-silent-but-deadly dept.
StartsWithABang writes You know the fundamental principle of special relativity: nothing can move faster than the speed of light. But space itself? That's not a "thing" in the conventional sense. Two years after coming up with special relativity, Einstein devised the equivalence principle, and thus began the development of general relativity, where space itself would have properties that changed over time, responding to changes in matter and energy. This includes the ability for it to expand, even faster than the speed of light, if the conditions are right.
NASA

Report: NASA May Miss SLS Launch Deadline 59

Posted by Soulskill
from the somewhere-elon-musk-is-smiling dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A post at the Planetary Society's blog summarizes a report from NASA's Office of Inspector General which says the agency will struggle to get launch facilities up and running in time for the Space Launch System's November 2018 launch deadline. "Ground systems are a critical piece of the SLS-Orion infrastructure. All three elements are tightly integrated, with ground systems requiring significant input from the rocket and capsule designs." To be more specific, NASA has found 462 separate inter-dependencies, less than two-thirds of which have been resolved so far. "The Mobile Launcher must be moved into the Vehicle Assembly Building for testing prior to the delivery of SLS and Orion. When it comes time to stack the rocket and capsule for the first flight, there may be a 'learning curve,' said the OIG, where engineers work through unforeseen glitches." They're also worried about having to develop all the software to run these systems before the hardware is in place to test.
Space

The Stolen Credit For What Makes Up the Sun 109

Posted by Soulskill
from the stellar-gasbags dept.
StartsWithABang writes: Sure, it's easy today to look at the Sun and know it's a ball of (mostly) hydrogen, generating energy by combining those protons in a chain into helium through the process of nuclear fusion. But before we even knew that nuclear fusion was possible, we needed to figure out what the Sun was made out of, a more difficult task than you'd imagine. The credit was given to Henry Norris Russell (of Hertzsprung-Russell diagram fame), but he completely stole the work from a woman you never heard of: his student, Cecilia Payne, after discouraging her from publishing her work on the subject four years prior.
Space

Most Powerful Geomagnetic Storm of Solar Cycle 24 Is Happening 86

Posted by Soulskill
from the pretty-colors-in-the-sky dept.
astroengine writes: The most powerful solar storm of the current solar cycle is currently reverberating around the globe. Initially triggered by the impact of a coronal mass ejection (CME) hitting our planet's magnetosphere, a relatively mild geomagnetic storm erupted at around 04:30 UT (12:30 a.m. EDT), but it has since ramped-up to an impressive G4-class geomagnetic storm, priming high latitudes for some bright auroral displays.
The Almighty Buck

Global Learning XPRIZE Senior Director Matt Keller Answers Your Questions 4

Posted by samzenpus
from the here-they-are dept.
A couple of weeks ago you had a chance to ask former Vice President of One Laptop per Child, and current Senior Director of the Global Learning XPRIZE Matt Keller about education and the competition. The XPRIZE challenges teams from around the world to develop open source software that will allow children in developing countries to teach themselves basic reading, writing and arithmetic with a Grand Prize of $10 million. Below you will find his answers to your questions.
NASA

Politics Is Poisoning NASA's Ability To Do Science 416

Posted by Soulskill
from the pretend-to-be-surprised dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Phil Plait just published an article about how politics is interfering with NASA's ability to perform vital scientific experiments. As expected when we heard that Ted Cruz would be made head of the committee in charge of NASA's funding, the Texas senator is pushing hard for NASA to stop studying Earth itself. Plait writes, "Over the years, NASA has had to beg and scrape to get the relatively small amount of money it gets—less than half a percent of the national budget—and still manages to do great things with it. Cruz is worried NASA's focus needs to be more on space exploration. Fine. Then give them enough money to do everything in their charter: Explore space, send humans there, and study our planet. Whether you think climate change is real or not—and it is— telling NASA they should turn a blind eye to the environment of our own planet is insanity." He concludes, "[T]he politics of funding a government agency is tying NASA in knots and critically endangering its ability to explore."
Software

NASA Wants Your Help Hunting For Asteroids 85

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-think-I-got-one dept.
An anonymous reader writes about new NASA software that can help you become an asteroid hunter. "Since the early 20th century, astronomers have relied on the same technique to detect asteroids — they take images of a section in the sky and look for star-like objects that move between frames. However, with an increase in sensitivity of ground-based telescopes, it has become increasingly difficult for astronomers to sift through the massive pile of data and verify every single detection. In order to increase the frequency of asteroid detection, including of those bodies that could be potential threats to our planet, NASA has released new software, developed in collaboration with Planetary Resources, Inc., capable of running on any standard PC. The software, which can be downloaded for free, will accept images from a telescope and run an algorithm on them to determine celestial bodies that are moving in a manner consistent with an asteroid."
Displays

Valve's SteamVR: Solves Big Problems, Raises Bigger Questions 124

Posted by Soulskill
from the like-why-do-i-need-three-dimensions-of-candy-crush dept.
An anonymous reader writes: When Valve debuted its SteamVR headset recently, it came as somewhat of a surprise — it certainly hasn't gotten the same level of hype as the Oculus Rift. But people who got to try out the new headset almost universally impressed with the quality of the hardware and software. Eurogamer has an article about the device expressing both astonishment at how far the technology has come in three short years, as well as skepticism that we'll find anything revolutionary to do with it. Quoting: "R demands a paradigm shift in the thinking of game designers and artists about how they build virtual space and how players should interact with it. We're only at the very beginning of this journey now. ... but this process will likely take years, and at the end of it the games won't resemble those we're currently used to. In short, they won't be Half-Life 3."

The author thinks simulation games — driving, piloting, and space combat — will be the core of the first wave, and other genres will probably have to wait for the lessons learned making sims good. He adds, "...the practical challenges are great, too — not least in persuading players to clear enough space in their homes to use this device properly, and the potential for social stigma to attach to the goofy-looking headsets and the players' withdrawal into entirely private experiences. I still think that these present major obstacles to the widespread adoption of VR, which even more practical and commercially realistic offerings like Morpheus will struggle against."
NASA

NASA Launches Four Spacecraft To Study Earth-Sun Magnetism 21

Posted by Soulskill
from the space-magnets-how-do-they-work dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Late Thursday NASA used an Atlas rocket to put four new, identical spacecraft into orbit. "The quartet of observatories is being placed into an oblong orbit stretching tens of thousands of miles into the magnetosphere — nearly halfway to the moon at one point. They will fly in pyramid formation, between 6 miles and 250 miles apart, to provide 3-D views of magnetic reconnection on the smallest of scales. Magnetic reconnection is what happens when magnetic fields like those around Earth and the sun come together, break apart, then come together again, releasing vast energy. This repeated process drives the aurora, as well as solar storms that can disrupt communications and power on Earth. Data from this two-year mission should help scientists better understand so-called space weather."