An anonymous reader writes in with news that a meteorite found in Morocco might be from Mercury. "The green rock found in Morocco last year may be the first known visitor from the solar system's innermost planet, according to meteorite scientist Anthony Irving, who unveiled the new findings this month at the 44th annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas. The study suggests that a space rock called NWA 7325 came from Mercury, and not an asteroid or Mars."
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Tired of seeing ads for cars and soda before the films you watch at the theater? Well, a successful crowdfunding campaign at Indiegogo will see a trimmed down version of NASA's 'We Are Explorers' video aired before showings of the upcoming Star Trek: Into Darkness in theaters all over the country. "Most people recognize space as a key expression of our character. They know our space programs as a globally recognized brand of ingenuity. The recently landed Mars Curiosity Rover was the latest reminder that space systems are the crown jewels of our scientific and technical prowess. Less known is the indispensable value space systems bring to our everyday lives. Space provides irreplaceable capabilities for defense, public health, finance, medicine, energy, agriculture, transportation, development and countless other fields. Investments in space programs are precisely about improving and protecting life on Earth. ... By funding this campaign, we can remind students and the general public that our nation's space agency is working hard on the next era of exploration." The campaign's funding goal was reached in just six days — their stretch goal will increase the number of theaters for the clip from 59 screens to 750. The movie comes out on May 17th.
RougeFemme writes "As part of a research project to develop low-cost artificial hands, DARPA has developed a two-hand robot that can almost change a tire. Research has mastered grasping objects with robotic hands; the next objective is to manipulate the objects once grasped. Research also continues on a neural interface, a direct link between a robotic arm and the human brain. The ultimate goal of the research project is to develop prostethics and robotic arms for wider use, by reducing cost and improving dexterity and machine vision."
New submitter alysion writes "Per research published in the online journal PLOS One, psychologists Christine Ma-Kellams of Harvard University and Jim Blascovich of the University of California, Santa Barbara report, 'Thinking about science leads individuals to endorse more stringent moral norms.' In one of the four supporting experiments, undergraduates considered an account of a date rape and were asked to judge behavior on a scale of 1 to 100. Science types, perhaps not surprisingly, proved to have a better grasp of reality, including the moral kind."
First time accepted submitter CanadianRealist writes "Electrolysis of water to produce hydrogen is very inefficient without the use of a catalyst. Unfortunately catalysts are currently made of crystals containing rare, expensive toxic metals such as ruthenium and iridium. Two chemists from the University of Calgary have invented a process to make a catalyst using relatively non-toxic metal compounds such as iron oxide, for 1/1000 the cost of currently used catalysts. It is suggested this would make it more feasible to use electrolysis of water to create hydrogen as a method of storing energy from variable green power sources such as wind and solar."
MarkWhittington writes "Included in President Obama's 2014 budget request will be a $100 million line item for NASA for a mission to capture and bring an asteroid to a high orbit around the moon where it will be explored by astronauts. Whether the $2.6 billion mission is a replacement or a supplement to the president's planned human mission to an asteroid is unclear. The proposal was first developed by the Keck Institite in April, 2012 and has achieved new impetus due to the meteor incident over Russia and new fears of killer asteroids."
sciencehabit writes "For the first time, synthetic biologists have created a genetic device that mimics one of the widgets on which all of modern electronics is based, the three-terminal transistor. Like standard electronic transistors, the new biological transistor is expected to work in many different biological circuit designs. This should make it easier for scientists to program cells to do everything from monitor pollutants and the progression of disease to turning on the output of medicines and biofuels."
First time accepted submitter markboyer writes "The Solar Impulse just landed at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California to announce a journey that will take it from San Francisco to New York without using a single drop of fuel. The 'Across America' tour will kick off this May when founders Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg take off from San Francisco. From there the plane will visit four cities across the states before landing in New York."
SternisheFan points out that there is a great new panorama made from shots from the Curiosity Rover. "Sweep your gaze around Gale Crater on Mars, where NASA's Curiosity rover is currently exploring, with this 4-billion-pixel panorama stitched together from 295 images. ...The entire image stretches 90,000 by 45,000 pixels and uses pictures taken by the rover's two MastCams. The best way to enjoy it is to go into fullscreen mode and slowly soak up the scenery — from the distant high edges of the crater to the enormous and looming Mount Sharp, the rover's eventual destination."
ananyo writes "Nature has published an investigation into the real costs of publishing research after delving into the secretive, murky world of science publishing. Few publishers (open access or otherwise-including Nature Publishing Group) would reveal their profit margins, but they've pieced together a picture of how much it really costs to publish a paper by talking to analysts and insiders. Quoting from the piece: '"The costs of research publishing can be much lower than people think," agrees Peter Binfield, co-founder of one of the newest open-access journals, PeerJ, and formerly a publisher at PLoS. But publishers of subscription journals insist that such views are misguided — born of a failure to appreciate the value they add to the papers they publish, and to the research community as a whole. They say that their commercial operations are in fact quite efficient, so that if a switch to open-access publishing led scientists to drive down fees by choosing cheaper journals, it would undermine important values such as editorial quality.' There's also a comment piece by three open access advocates setting out what they think needs to happen next to push forward the movement as well as a piece arguing that 'Objections to the Creative Commons attribution license are straw men raised by parties who want open access to be as closed as possible.'"
A while ago you had the chance to ask James Randi, the founder of The James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF), about exposing hucksters, frauds, and fakers. Below you'll find his answers to your questions. In addition to his writings below, Randi was nice enough to sit down and talk to us about his life and his foundation. Keep an eye out for those videos coming soon.
Zothecula writes "Given that scientists are already looking to sea sponges as an inspiration for body armor, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that foam is also being considered ... not just any foam, though. Unlike regular foam, specially-designed nanofoams could someday not only be used in body armor, but also to protect buildings from explosions."
HungWeiLo writes "A California man who believes the literal interpretation of the Bible is real is offering $10,000 to anyone who can successfully debunk claims made in the book of Genesis in front of a judge. Joseph Mastropaolo, the man behind this challenge, is to put $10,000 of his own money into an escrow account. His debate opponent would be asked to do the same. They would then jointly agree on a judge based on a list of possible candidates. Mastropaolo said that any evidence presented in the trial must be 'scientific, objective, valid, reliable and calibrated.' For his part, Mastropaolo has a Ph.D. in kinesiology and writes for the Creation Hall of Fame website, which is helping to organize the minitrial. It's also not the first such trial he's tried to arrange. A previous effort, known as the 'Life Science Prize,' proposed a similar scenario. Mastropaolo includes a list of possible circuit court judges to oversee the trial and a list of those he challenged to take part on the evolutionary side of the debate."
sciencehabit writes "The electric fields that build up on honey bees as they fly, flutter their wings, or rub body parts together may allow the insects to talk to each other, a new study suggests. Tests show that the electric fields, which can be quite strong, deflect the bees' antennae, which, in turn, provide signals to the brain through specialized organs at their bases. Antenna deflections induced by an electrically charged honey bee wing are about 10 times the size of those that would be caused by airflow from the wing fluttering at the same distance—a sign that electrical fields could be an important signal."
coondoggie writes "How is spacecraft development — from the space parts supply chain to actual space operations — protected from those who would try to penetrate or disrupt the networks involved in that process? The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has put out a call for research to understand that security scenario. They say, 'we are much less concerned about information on the broader themes of cyber-security but rather those that pertain to the mission of the spacecraft, the spacecraft as a platform, the systems that constitute the spacecraft, the computers and their software, the busses and networks within, and the elements that interface to the spacecraft.'"
sciencehabit writes "Researchers who mapped methane concentrations on the streets of the nation's capital found natural gas leaks everywhere, at concentrations of up to 50 times the normal background levels. The leaking gas wastes resources, enhances ozone production, and exacerbates global warming—not to mention powering the city's infamous exploding manholes. Most of the natural gas we burn for heat and on stovetops in the United States is methane, a simple carbon atom surrounded by four hydrogens. Carbon dioxide gets more press, but methane is the more powerful agent of global warming, 21 times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. And methane levels are rising fast. Methane levels in the atmosphere were just 650 parts per billion a century ago, versus 1800 ppb today."
ananyo writes "In a twist that evokes the dystopian science fiction of writer Philip K. Dick, neuroscientists have found a way to predict whether convicted felons are likely to commit crimes again from looking at their brain scans. Convicts showing low activity in a brain region associated with decision-making and action are more likely to be arrested again, and sooner. The researchers studied a group of 96 male prisoners just before their release. They used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the prisoners' brains during computer tasks in which subjects had to make quick decisions and inhibit impulsive reactions. The scans focused on activity in a section of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a small region in the front of the brain involved in motor control and executive functioning. The researchers then followed the ex-convicts for four years to see how they fared. Among the subjects of the study, men who had lower ACC activity during the quick-decision tasks were more likely to be arrested again after getting out of prison, even after the researchers accounted for other risk factors such as age, drug and alcohol abuse and psychopathic traits."
We've mentioned over the last few years several times the funding problems that mean the U.S. government's weather satellite stable is thinner than we might prefer. A story at the Weather Underground outlines the plan of a company called PlanetIQ to fill the needs met with the current constellation of weather sats with private ones instead. From the article, describing testimony last week before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce: "PlanetIQ's solution includes launching a constellation of 12 small satellites in low-Earth orbit to collect weather data, which PlanetIQ says the federal government could access at less cost and risk than current government-funded efforts. ... [PlanetIQ Anne Hale] Miglarese added that within 28 to 34 months from the beginning of their manufacture, all 12 satellites could be in orbit. As for the cost, she says, "We estimate that for all U.S. civilian and defense needs globally for both terrestrial and space weather applications, the cost to government agencies in the U.S. will be less than $70 million per year. As the satellites collect data, PlanetIQ would sell the data to government weather services around the world as well as the U.S. Air Force. The most recently launched polar-orbiting satellite, sent into space by the U.S. in 2011, cost $1.5 billion."
A year ago James Cameron made history by traveling solo almost seven miles deep in an area of the Pacific Ocean known the Mariana Trench’s Challenger Deep. He made the trip in a submersible he helped design, the Deepsea Challenger submersible system and science platform. To celebrate the anniversary, Cameron is forming a partnership with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), and donating the Deep Sea Challenger. From the press release: "Cameron will transfer the Deepsea Challenger to Woods Hole, where WHOI scientists and engineers will work with Cameron and his team to incorporate the sub’s numerous engineering advancements into future research platforms and deep-sea expeditions. This partnership harnesses the power of public and private investment in supporting deep-ocean science. “The seven years we spent designing and building the Deepsea Challenger were dedicated to expanding the options available to deep-ocean researchers. Our sub is a scientific proof-of-concept, and our partnership with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a way to provide the technology we developed to the oceanographic community,” says Cameron. James even sent us a few early drawings of the Deepsea Challenger that he made during a conversation with oceanographer Don Walsh in November 2003. The sketches are proof that many great ideas start out on napkins or lined paper.