First time accepted submitter mebates writes "Two newly discovered protists, found in the guts of termites, were named after monstrous cosmic entities featured in Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos as an ode to the sometimes strange and fascinating world of the microbe. From the article: 'The single-cell protists, Cthulhu macrofasciculumque and Cthylla microfasciculumque, help termites digest wood. The researchers decided to name them after monstrous cosmic entities featured in Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos as an ode to the sometimes strange and fascinating world of the microbe. 'When we first saw them under the microscope they had this unique motion, it looked almost like an octopus swimming,' says UBC researcher Erick James, lead author of the paper describing the new protists, published in the online journal PLoS ONE.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Depending on the level of hearing impairment, conventional aids may not be good enough and a hearing implant is the only option. Until now the required surgery to fit them has taken several hours. However, that is about to change. A new implant that can be fitted with outpatient surgery has been developed consisting of a 1.2mm electro-acoustic transducer, which is positioned at the so-called 'round window,' which is where the middle and inner ear connect. It then produces amplified mechanical vibrations that stimulate the auditory nerve. Even though the transducer is tiny, it can reach volumes of up to 120 decibels."
netbuzz writes "The questioner on Quora asks: 'When is the difference between 99% accuracy and 99.9% accuracy very important?' And the most popular answer provided cites an example familiar to all of you: service level agreements. However, the most entertaining reply comes from a computer science and mathematics student at the University of Texas, Alex Suchman. Here's his answer: 'When it can stop a Zombie Apocalypse.'"
astroengine writes "A $2 billion particle detector attached to the International Space Station has detected the potential signature of dark matter annihilation in the Cosmos, scientists have announced today. The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) was attached to the space station in May 2011 by space shuttle Endeavour — the second-to last shuttle mission to the orbital outpost. Since then, the AMS has been detecting electrons and positrons (the electron's anti-particle) originating from deep space and assessing their energies. By doing a tally of electrons and positrons, physicists hope the AMS will help to answer one of the most enduring mysteries in science: Does dark matter exist? And today, it looks like the answer is a cautious, yet exciting, affirmative."
part one ran yesterday) with Conjurer and Investigator (his words) James Randi, whose organization, the James Randi Education Foundation, has a long-standing offer: prove you have paranormal abilities and they'll give you $1 Million. They say they've recently made this award easier than ever to win. Note that, lower bar or no, Randi claims the last time a conjurer's illusion fooled him was many years ago, when he was very young. It was one done by the famous Chan Canasta -- and Randi claims that in the end he figured it out, anyway. So forget the $1 Million, relax, and enjoy James Randi. He's a great raconteur, so we can all be jealous of interviewer Rob Rozeboom (samzenpus) for having made this great video even as we enjoy watching it.
James Randi answered your questions. But that was text, and he's a performer ("The Amazing Randi"), so you need to hear the man talk to get his full flavor. He's a good talker, too. So Rob Rozeboom (samzenpus) got on Skype with The Amazing Randi to talk about his exploits, including his debunking of a whole bunch of (alleged) frauds, ranging from Uri Geller to Sylvia Browne. The resulting interview was so long and so strong that we cut it in half. Today you see Part One. Tomorrow you'll see Part Two. (The video's here now; sorry about the delay.)
astroengine writes "It may not be a lander or an orbiter, but its something. Europa, one of Jupiter's largest moons, has been the focus of much scrutiny over its potential life-bearing qualities. It has an icy crust over a liquid water ocean and now salts have been detected on its surface, suggesting a cycling of nutrients from the surface to the interior. This only amplifies the hypothesis that Europa not only could support basic life, it could support complex life. But how can we find out? The proposed Europa Clipper received interest at NASA HQ last year as it would optimize the science while keeping the mission budget under $2 billion. It would be a spacecraft that will be in orbit around Jupiter, but make multiple flybys of Europa to assess the moon for its habitable qualities. Now, in a bill signed by President Obama and approved by lawmakers, $75 million has been allocated (for the remainder of this fiscal year) for a 'Jupiter Europa mission.' Could it represent the seed money for the Europa Clipper? We'll have to wait and see."
beltsbear writes "Following a reasonable view of drug patents, the Indian courts have decided that making small changes to an existing patented drug are not worthy of a new patent. This ruling makes way for low cost Indian cancer drugs that will save lives. From the Article: 'Novartis lost a six-year legal battle after the court ruled that small changes and improvements to the drug Glivec did not amount to innovation deserving of a patent. The ruling opens the way for generic companies in India to manufacture and sell cheap copies of the drug in the developing world and has implications for HIV and other modern drugs too.'"
Zothecula writes "A manned Soyuz spacecraft set a record for traveling to the International Space Station (ISS), arriving six hours after launch instead of the usual two days. Soyuz 34 lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Friday, March 28 at 4:43 p.m. EDT (08:43 GMT) and docked with the ISS at 10: 28 PM EDT (03:28 GMT). It was able to catch up and match trajectories with the ISS in only four orbits using new techniques previously tested in ISS rendezvouses with Russian unmanned Progress cargo ships."
redletterdave writes "In an unprecedented move sure to shake up the world of particle physics, CERN announced on Monday that it will give away its newly-discovered Higgs boson particles in a lottery. But given the rarity of Higgs boson particles – only one particle is created out of one million million collisions – CERN will only be able to reward 10 lucky winners. 'At CERN, we have always believed in sharing the results of our research, and the time has come to make that tangible,' said CERN director of research Sergio Bertolucci. 'This is our way of saying thanks for the incredible level of enthusiasm that has greeted this discovery.'"
An anonymous reader writes "It appears that Fermilab has chosen a a new director. They refuse to release the name of the new director, only referring to him as 'The Doctor'. Citing their primary reasons for choosing him: 'It was his extensive experience, as well as his vague yet somehow still impressive educational background, that tipped the scales in the Doctor's favor, members of the committee said. This despite the fact that none of the members could determine with any certainty exactly what the new lab director's doctorate is in. "After facing down Daleks, Cybermen and the Master, I can't think of anyone more qualified to take on a congressional budget committee," outgoing director Pier Oddonesaid said. "I think the Doctor is a perfect choice."'"
p00kiethebear writes "I have a wonderful and beautiful girlfriend who treats me right in every way. We've been together for almost a year now and everything seemed to be going perfectly until this morning. Over breakfast we were discussing dinosaurs and she told me a story about how her grandfather, fifty years ago, dated footprints of a dinosaurs and a man that were right next to each other to be within the same epoch of history. I laughed when she said this and then realized that she wasn't joking. She believes dinosaurs and humans walked at the same time together. The odd thing is that she's not religious, it's just what her archaeologist grandfather taught her. More important than just backing up evidence to the contrary, how do I explain this to her without crushing her childhood dreams? Is it even worth discussing it further with her?"
An anonymous reader writes "Australian researchers have successfully connected a Tasmanian colony of fairy penguins to the internet. The research effort was part of the Interspecies Internet initiative, promoted by Google's chief internet evangelist Vint Cerf and former Genesis lead singer Peter Gabriel in a TED talk earlier this year."
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."
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.
Hugh Pickens writes writes "Richard Gray reports that scientists have found a way to help anyone plagued by those annoying tunes that lodge themselves inside our heads and repeat on an endless loop — when snippets of a catchy song inexplicably play like a broken record in your brain. The solution can be to solve some tricky anagrams to force the intrusive music out of your working memory allowing the music to be replaced with other more amenable thoughts. 'The key is to find something that will give the right level of challenge,' says Dr Ira Hyman, a music psychologist at Western Washington University who conducted the research. 'If you are cognitively engaged, it limits the ability of intrusive songs to enter your head.' Hyman says that the problem, called involuntary memory retrieval, is that something we can do automatically like driving or walking means you are not using all of your cognitive resource, so there is plenty of space left for that internal jukebox to start playing. Dr Vicky Williamson, a music psychologist at Goldsmiths, University of London, says that the most likely songs to get stuck are those that are easy to hum along to or sing and found that that Lady Gaga was the most common artist to get stuck in people's heads, with four of her catchy pop songs being the most likely to become earworms – Alejandro, Bad Romance, Just Dance and Paparazzi. Other surveys have reported Abba songs such as Waterloo, Changes by David Bowie or the Beatles' Hey Jude."
Zothecula writes "We haven't heard anything from NASA's Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) spacecraft since its launch in February, but the satellite is now ready to start sending its first images back home. The first batch of photos are part of a three-month testing period, and show the meeting of the Great Plains with the Front Ranges of the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming and Colorado. Viewed from space, it's already a pretty spectacular scene, but the images from the LDCM managed to enhance it even further."
cylonlover writes "Not even a year after it claimed the title of the world's lightest material, aerographite has been knocked off its crown by a new aerogel made from graphene. Created by a research team from China's Zhejiang University in the Department of Polymer Science and Engineering lab headed by Professor Gao Chao, the ultra-light aerogel has a density of just 0.16 mg/cm3, which is lower than that of helium and just twice that of hydrogen."
cold fjord writes "It looks like deep sea exploration may pay off big time as Japanese scientists have located rich deposits of rare earth elements on the sea floor in Japanese Exclusive Economic Zone waters, following up on their find two years ago of huge deposits of rare earths in mid-Pacific waters. The cumulative effect of these finds could significantly weaken Chinese control of 90% of the world supply of rare earth metals, which the Chinese have been using to flex their muscles. The concentration of rare earth metals in the Japanese find is astonishing: up to 6,500 ppm, versus 500-1,000 ppm for Chinese mines. The newly identified deposits are just 2-4 meters below sea floor which could make for relatively easy mining compared to the 10+ meters they were expecting... if they can get there. The fact that the deposits are 5,700 meters deep means there is just one or two little problems to resolve : 'A seabed oil field has been developed overseas at a depth of 3,000 meters. . . But the development of seabed resources at depths of more than 5,000 meters has no precedent, either at home or abroad. There remains a mountain of technological challenges, including how to withstand water pressure and ocean currents and how to process the mining products in the ocean, sources said.'"
jrepin writes "On day two of the 2013 Embedded Linux Conference, Robert Rose of SpaceX spoke about the 'Lessons Learned Developing Software for Space Vehicles.' In his talk, he discussed how SpaceX develops its Linux-based software for a wide variety of tasks needed to put spacecraft into orbit—and eventually beyond. Linux runs everywhere at SpaceX, he said, on everything from desktops to spacecraft."
California doesn't get all the action; The Washington Post is one of many news outlets reporting that the east coast of North America got a good view of a meteor, with more than 300 sightings from Canada to Florida. Did you see it? If so, did you have your dashcam on? Update: 03/23 13:43 GMT by T : The meteor was captured at least by some security cameras, as reported by The Guardian.
coondoggie writes "Researchers at DARPA want to take the science of machine learning — teaching computers to automatically understand data, manage results and surmise insights — up a couple notches. Machine learning, DARPA says, is already at the heart of many cutting edge technologies today, like email spam filters, smartphone personal assistants and self-driving cars. 'Unfortunately, even as the demand for these capabilities is accelerating, every new application requires a Herculean effort. Even a team of specially-trained machine learning experts makes only painfully slow progress due to the lack of tools to build these systems,' DARPA says."
Techmeology writes "In a survey of UK GPs, 97% said they'd recommended placebo treatments to their patients, with some doctors telling patients that the treatment had helped others without telling them that it was a placebo. While some doctors admitted to using a sugar pill or saline injection, some of the placebos offered had side effects such as antibiotic treatments used as placebos for viral infections."
skade88 writes "Reuters is reporting that scientists now say the universe is 100 million years older than previously thought after they took a closer look at leftover radiation from the Big Bang. This puts the age of the Universe at 13.8 billion years. The new findings are the direct results from analyzing data provided by the European Space Agency's Planck spacecraft. The spacecraft is providing the most detailed look to date at the remnant microwave radiation that permeates the universe. 'It's as if we've gone from a standard television to a high-definition television. New and important details have become crystal clear,' Paul Hertz, NASA's director of astrophysics, told reporters on a conference call."
Trepidity writes "The extensive NASA Technical Report Archive was just taken offline, following pressure from members of U.S. Congress, worried that Chinese researchers could be reading the reports. U.S. Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA) demanded that 'NASA should immediately take down all publicly available technical data sources until all documents that have not been subjected to export control review have received such a review,' and NASA appears to have complied. Although all reports are in the public domain, there doesn't appear to be a third-party mirror available (some university libraries do have subsets on microfiche)."
sciencehabit writes "If you've pondered whether to sink a cool couple of grand into a fancy new three-dimensional TV but didn't want to mess around with those dorky glasses, you may want to sit tight for a few more years. Researchers at Hewlett Packard Laboratories in Palo Alto, California, report that they've come up with a new 3D technology that not only doesn't require viewers to wear special glasses, but it also can be viewed from a wide variety of angles. The advance could propel the development of mobile 3D devices as well as TVs."
skade88 writes "Jeff Bezos has been spending his time fishing up parts of the Apollo 11 rockets. From his blog 'What an incredible adventure. We are right now onboard the Seabed Worker headed back to Cape Canaveral after finishing three weeks at sea, working almost 3 miles below the surface. We found so much. We've seen an underwater wonderland – an incredible sculpture garden of twisted F-1 engines that tells the story of a fiery and violent end, one that serves testament to the Apollo program. We photographed many beautiful objects in situ and have now recovered many prime pieces. Each piece we bring on deck conjures for me the thousands of engineers who worked together back then to do what for all time had been thought surely impossible.'"
An anonymous reader writes "A new study released today (abstract) indicates that the Voyager 1 spacecraft has become the first man-made object to exit our solar system. Instrumentation data sent back to NASA indicate the historic event likely occurred on August 25, 2012, evidenced by drastic changes in radiation levels as the craft ventured past the heliopause. What remains to be seen, however, is whether Voyager 1 has actually made it to true interstellar space, or whether it has entered a separate, undefined region beyond our solar system. Either way, the achievement is truly monumental. 'It's outside the normal heliosphere, I would say that. We're in a new region,' said Bill Webber, professor emeritus of astronomy at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. 'And everything we're measuring is different and exciting.'" Update: 03/20 20:44 GMT by S : Reader skade88 points out that the JPL Voyager team is not so sure: "It is the consensus of the Voyager science team that Voyager 1 has not yet left the solar system or reached interstellar space. In December 2012, the Voyager science team reported that Voyager 1 is within a new region called 'the magnetic highway' where energetic particles changed dramatically. A change in the direction of the magnetic field is the last critical indicator of reaching interstellar space and that change of direction has not yet been observed." So we'll probably be hearing about this again in a couple years.
ananyo writes "Belgian mathematician Pierre Deligne completed the work for which he became celebrated nearly four decades ago, but that fertile contribution to number theory has now earned him the Abel Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in mathematics. The prize is worth 6 million Norwegian krone (about US$1 million). In short, Deligne proved one of the four Weil conjectures (he proved the hardest; his mentor, Alexander Grothendieck, had proved the second conjecture in 1965) and went on to tools such as l-adic cohomology to extend algebraic geometry and to relate it to other areas of maths. 'To some extent, I feel that this money belongs to mathematics, not to me,' Deligne said, via webcast."
ananyo writes "Researchers have imaged an entire vertebrate brain at the level of single neurons for the first time. A team of scientists based at the Janelia Farm Research Campus in Ashburn, Virginia, were able to record activity across the whole brain of a fish embryo almost every second, detecting 80% of its 100,000 neurons. The work is a first step towards mapping the activity of a whole human brain — which contains about 85,000 times more neurons than the zebrafish brain. The imaging system relies on a genetically engineered zebrafish (Danio rerio). The fish's neurons make a protein that fluoresces in response to fluctuations in the concentration of calcium ions, which occur when nerve cells fire. A microscope sends sheets of light rather than a conventional beam through the fish's brain, and a detector captures the signals like a viewer watching a cinema screen. The system records activity from the full brain every 1.3 seconds."
MTorrice writes "When energy companies extract natural gas trapped deep underground using hydraulic fracturing, they're left with water containing high levels of pollutants, including benzene and barium. Sometimes the gas producers dispose of this fracking wastewater by sending it to treatment plants that deal with sewage and water from other industrial sources. But a new study (abstract) suggests that the plants can't handle this water's high levels of contaminants: Water flowing out of the plants into the environment still has elevated levels of the chemicals from natural gas production."
skade88 writes "Wired has a good article that covers the origins of the white dwarf super nova Johannes Kepler observed in 1604. From the article: 'Up until now, it was unclear what lead to the star's explosion. New Chandra data suggests that, at least in the case of Kepler's remnant, the white dwarf grabbed material from its companion star. The disk-shaped structure seen near the center suggests that the supernova explosion hit a ring of gas and dust that would have formed, like water circling a drain, as the white dwarf sucked material away from its neighbor. In addition, magnesium is not an element formed in great abundances during Type 1a supernovas, suggesting it came from the companion star. Whether or not Kepler's supernova is a typical case remains to be seen. '"