First time accepted submitter Noctis-Kaban writes "Scientists in China have built and tested a radical new space drive. Although the thrust it produces may not be enough to lift your mobile phone, it looks like it could radically change the satellite industry. Satellites are just the start: with superconducting components, this technology could generate the thrust to drive everything from deep space probes to flying cars. And it all started with a British engineer whose invention was ignored and ridiculed in his home country."
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sciencehabit writes "The ancestor of all placental mammals—the diverse lineage that includes almost all species of mammals living today, including humans—was a tiny, furry-tailed creature that evolved shortly after the dinosaurs disappeared, a new study suggests. The hypothetical creature, not found in the fossil record but inferred from it, probably was a tree-climbing, insect-eating mammal that weighed between 6 and 245 grams—somewhere between a small shrew and a mid-sized rat. It was furry, had a long tail, gave birth to a single young, and had a complex brain with a large lobe for interpreting smells and a corpus callosum, the bundle of nerve fibers that connects the left and right hemispheres of the brain. The period following the dinosaur die-offs could be considered a 'big bang' of mammalian diversification, with species representing as many as 10 major groups of placentals appearing within a 200,000-year interval."
astroengine writes "The Earth has one permanent moon — you know, 'The Moon' — but at any given time there are thought to be two temporary interlopers that were once asteroids, but get captured by our planet's gravity to become mini-moons for a few months or even years. They eventually get flung back out into interplanetary space. This ultimate 'catch and release' provides an interesting opportunity for any future asteroid mission. So now astronomers want to find them, possibly using the newly-minted Hubble-class spy telescopes donated to NASA by the National Reconnaissance Office."
astroengine writes "By focusing the Green Bank radio telescope on stars hosting (candidate) exoplanets identified by NASA's Kepler space telescope, it is hoped that one of those star systems may also play host to a sufficiently evolved alien race capable of transmitting radio signals into space. But in a study headed by ex-SETI chief Jill Tarter, the conclusion of this first attempt is blunt: 'No signals of extraterrestrial origin were found.' But this is the just first of the 'directed' SETI searches that has put some very important limits on the probability of finding sufficiently advanced alien civilizations in our galaxy."
Hugh Pickens writes writes "Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has announced plans to launch the nation's first ever bachelor's degree in Commercial Space Operations to supply the commercial spaceflight industry with skilled graduates in the areas of space policy, operations, regulation and certification, as well as space flight safety, and space program training, management and planning. The rapid expansion of commercial spaceflight operations is fostered by NASA's commercial cargo and crew development programs and by entrepreneurs developing capabilities for suborbital spaceflight, orbital space habitats, space resource prospecting and other commercial ventures. 'Embry-Riddle's new Commercial Space Operations degree is one of the most innovative non-engineering degrees in the aerospace industry,' says program coordinator Lance Erickson, a professor of applied aviation sciences at Embry-Riddle. 'When we were planning this degree, our advisers from the commercial space industry said they couldn't wait to hire our graduates.'"
ananyo writes "How open do researchers want open-access papers to be? Apparently, not that open — when given a choice of licenses, most opt to limit the use of data and words in their open-access publications, according to figures released by the open-access journal Scientific Reports. Since July 2012 the journal has been offering researchers a choice of three types of license. The first, most liberal license, CC-BY, allows anyone, even commercial organizations, to re-use it. A more restrictive version, CC-BY-NC-SA, lets others remix, tweak and build on work if they give credit to the original author, but only for non-commercial (NC) purposes, and only if they license what they produce under the same terms (SA, or 'share-alike'). A third licence, CC-BY-NC-ND, is the most restrictive, allowing others to download and share work, but not to change it in any way (ND, 'no derivative works'), or use it commercially. The results from Scientific Reports shows that, for the 685 papers accepted by the journal, authors chose either of the more restrictive licences 95% of the time — and the most restrictive, CC-BY-NC-ND, 68% of the time."
sciencehabit writes "Left to its own devices, a bubble will weaken and pop as the fluid sandwiched between two thin layers of soap succumbs to gravity and drains toward the floor. But when researchers trapped a bubble between two platinum electrodes and cranked up the voltage, the fluid reversed direction and actually flowed up, against the force of gravity. The newly strong and stable bubbles could live for hours, and even visibly change colors as their walls grew fatter. Because soap film is naturally only nanometers thick, this whimsical experiment could help scientists create more efficient labs-on-chips, the mazes of nanotunnels that can diagnose disease based on the movements of a miniscule drop of blood."
judgecorp writes "Fears that mobile phones cause cancer have never had strong backing from scientific research, but Israeli startup Tawkon is using those fears for an interesting business model. Its free app (banned from Apple's App Store, but on Android, BlackBerry and unlocked iPhones) tracks how much radiation your phone is emitting. This lets concerned users hold their phones away from their heads or whatever — but it also gives Tawkon a useful map of cellphone coverage around the world, which is the real asset it is monetizing — for the benefit of everyone, it says."
An anonymous reader writes "In a move likely to have major political implications, the University of Düsseldorf has revoked the doctoral degree of Germany's science and education minister, Annette Schavan. The committee investigating allegations of plagiarism came to the conclusion that she 'systematically and deliberately claimed as her own intellectual achievements which she had in fact not produced herself.' Schavan wants to appeal the decision in court and has not resigned from her post so far."
astroengine writes "Extrapolating from findings by NASA's planet-hunting Kepler Space Telescope, scientists on Wednesday said roughly six percent of so-called red dwarf stars have Earth-sized planets properly positioned around their parent stars so that liquid water could exist on their surfaces. The team looked at 95 candidate planets circling red dwarf stars observed by Kepler and found that at least 60 percent have planets smaller than Neptune. Most were not the right size or temperature to be Earth-like, but three were found to be both warm and approximately Earth-sized. Statistically that would mean six percent of all red dwarf stars should have a Earth-sized planet. Since 75 percent of the closest stars are red dwarfs, the nearest Earth-like world may be just 13 light-years away."
First time accepted submitter ios and web coder writes "From the article: 'A dizzying story that involves falsified medical research, plagiarism, and legal threats came to light via a DMCA takedown notice today. Retraction Watch, a site that followed (among many other issues) the implosion of a Duke cancer researcher's career, found all of its articles on the topic pulled by WordPress, its host. The reason? A small site based in India apparently copied all of the posts, claimed them as their own, then filed a DMCA takedown notice to get the originals pulled from their source. As of now, the originals are still missing as their actual owners seek to have them restored.' This is extremely worrying. Even though the original story is careful not to make accusations, I will. This sure smells like a 'Reputation Defense' dirty trick."
Layzej writes "Last summer a paper investigating the link between conspiratorial thinking and the rejection of climate science provoked a response on blogs skeptical of the scientific consensus that appeared to illustrate the very cognitive processes at the center of the research. This generated data for a new paper titled 'Recursive fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation (PDF).' The researchers reviewed the reactions for evidence of conspiratorial thinking, including the presumption of nefarious intent, perception of persecution, the tendency to detect meaning in random events, and the ability to interpret contrary evidence as evidence that the conspiracy is even greater in scope that was originally believed. Some of the hypotheses promoted to dismiss the findings of the original paper ultimately grew in scope to include actors beyond the authors, such as university executives, a media organization, and the Australian government. It is not clear whether the response to this paper will itself provide data for further research, or how far down this recursion could progress. I fear the answer may be 'all the way.'"
An anonymous reader writes "In decades and centuries past, scientific genius was easy to quantify. Those scientists who were able to throw off the yoke of established knowledge and break new ground on their own are revered and respected. But as humanity, as a species, has gotten better at science, and the basics of most fields have been refined over and over, it's become much harder for any one scientist to make a mark on the field. There's still plenty we don't know, but so much of it is highly specialized that many breakthroughs are understood by only a handful. Even now, the latest generation is more likely to be familiar with the great popularizers of science, like Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, and Carl Sagan, than of the researchers at the forefront of any particular field. "...most scientific fields aren't in the type of crisis that would enable paradigm shifts, according to Thomas Kuhn's classic view of scientific revolutions. Simonton argues that instead of finding big new ideas, scientists currently work on the details in increasingly specialized and precise ways." Will we ever again see a scientist get recognition like Einstein did?"
With his trademark hat and beard, Dr. Robert Bakker is one of the most recognized paleontologists working today. Bakker was among the advisers for the movie Jurassic Park, and the character Dr. Robert Burke in the film The Lost World: Jurassic Park is based on him. He was one of the first to put forth the idea that some dinosaurs had feathers and were warm-blooded, and is credited with initiating the ongoing "dinosaur renaissance" in paleontology. Bakker is currently the curator of paleontology for the Houston Museum of Natural Science and the Director of the Morrison Natural History Museum in Colorado. He is also a Christian minister, who contends that there is no real conflict between religion and science, citing the writings and views of Saint Augustine as a guide on melding the two. Dr. Bakker has agreed to take some time from his writing and digging in order to answer your questions. As usual, ask as many questions as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
An anonymous reader writes with news from Mersenne.org, home of the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search: "On January 25th at 23:30:26 UTC, the largest known prime number, 257,885,161-1, was discovered on GIMPS volunteer Curtis Cooper's computer. The new prime number, 2 multiplied by itself 57,885,161 times, less one, has 17,425,170 digits. With 360,000 CPUs peaking at 150 trillion calculations per second, GIMPS — now in its 17th year — is the longest continuously-running global 'grassroots supercomputing' project in Internet history."
MTorrice writes "To make light-weight, inexpensive electronics using renewable materials, scientists have turned to a technology that is almost 2,000 years old: paper. Researchers fabricated organic transistors on a transparent, exceptionally smooth type of paper called nanopaper. This material has cellulose fibers that are only 10 nm in diameter. The nanopaper transistors are about 84% transparent, and their performance decreases only slightly when bent."
MatthewVD writes "In 2006, researcher Mark Changizi came up with a novel theory for why humans evolved with color vision: to detect social cues and emotions in others. He built glasses called 02Amps to enhance perception of blood pooling. Some hospitals have tried using the glasses to see bruising that's not visible unaided, or help nurses find veins. But it turns out now that the glasses might be able to fix some forms of colorblindness, too."
cylonlover writes with news of an update to the model used for calculating the habitable zone around stars shifting things out a bit. From the article: "Researchers at Penn state have developed a new method for calculating the habitable zone (original paper, PDF) around stars. The computer model based on new greenhouse gas databases provides a tool to better estimate which extrasolar planets with sufficient atmospheric pressure might be able to maintain liquid water on their surface. The new model indicates that some of the nearly 300 possible Earth-like planets previously identified might be too close to their stars to to be habitable. It also places the Solar System's habitable zone between 0.99 AU (92 million mi, 148 million km) and 1.70 AU (158 million mi, 254 million km) from the Sun. Since the Earth orbits the Sun at an average distance of one AU, this puts us at the very edge of the habitable zone."
carmendrahl writes "Emergency-room visits linked to caffeine-laden energy drinks are on the rise. This gives scientists who'd like to see caffeine regulated the jitters. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration seems to be dragging its feet on regulating caffeine content in food and drink, because people have different sensitivities to it (abstract). Currently, caffeine-rich products like Monster Energy get around the rules because they're marketed as dietary supplements. 'Caffeine gets cleared from the body at different rates because of genetic variations, gender, and even whether a person is a smoker. For this reason, it’s difficult to set a safe limit of daily consumption on the compound. Physiological differences, as well as differences in the way people consume caffeine, have tied FDA in knots as it has debated how to regulate the substance. ... The toxic level in humans, about 10 g, is roughly the equivalent of imbibing 75 cups of brewed coffee (in 8-oz mugs) or 120 cans of Red Bull over a few hours. But that lethal limit can vary widely from person to person, experts say."
An anonymous reader writes "It turns out that the remains found in a parking lot in Leicester, England belong to none other than King Richard III, one of the most reviled monarchs of English history. Scientists announced on Monday that they were able to confirm the identity of the skeleton through DNA testing."