An anonymous reader writes "A Newtown couple, both scientists, who lost their daughter in the school shooting, are wondering whether there were clues in the shooter's physiological makeup — his DNA, his blood, his brain chemistry. They are now involved in a search for biomarkers, similar to those that may indicate disease, for violence. They are raising money to help fund this research, but the effort is running into obstacles, in part, over ethical concerns. 'I'm not opposed to research on violence and biomarkers, but I'm concerned about making too big of a leap between biomarkers and violence,' said Troy Duster, a researcher at the University of California at Berkeley. There is concern that science may find biomarkers long before society can deal with its implications."
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Rebecka writes "Hurricane Sandy, which pelted multiple states in Oct. and created billions of dollars in damage, was a freak occurrence and not an indication of future weather patterns, according to NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies via LiveScience. The study (abstract), which calculated a statistical analysis of the storm's trajectory and monitored climate changes' influences on hurricane tracks, claims that the tropical storm was merely a 1-in-700-year event. 'The particular shape of Sandy's trajectory is very peculiar, and that's very rare, on the order of once every 700 years,' said senior scientist at NASA and study co-author, Timothy Hall. According to Hall, the extreme flooding associated with the storm was also due to the storm's trajectory which was described as being 'near perpendicular.' The storm's unusual track was found to have been caused by a high tides associated with a full moon and high pressure that forced the storm to move off the coast of the Western North Atlantic."
astroengine writes "A planned six-hour spacewalk outside the International Space Station came to a dramatic and abrupt end on Tuesday when water started building up inside the helmet of Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano. Parmitano and NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy were less than an hour into their spacewalk, their second in a week, when Parmitano reported that his head felt wet. 'My head is really wet and I have a feeling it's increasing,' Parmitano reported to ground control teams at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Parmitano returned safely to the space station interior, but the cause of the leak was not immediately known."
First time accepted submitter CherryLongman writes "If you feel as if every mosquito in a 50-mile radius has you locked in its sights, while your friends are rarely bitten, you could be right. Up to 20 percent of us are highly alluring to mosquitoes — and scientists have discovered some surprising reasons."
sciencehabit writes "Europe's first farmers helped spread a revolutionary way of living across the continent. They also spread something else. A new study reveals that these early agriculturalists were fertilizing their crops with manure 8000 years ago, thousands of years earlier than previously thought."
sciencehabit writes "The tragic opera Rigoletto may move you to tears, but here's a more literal application of the moving power of sound. Sound waves with frequencies just above human hearing can levitate tiny particles and liquid droplets and even move them around, a team of engineers has demonstrated. The advance could open up new ways to handle delicate materials or mix pharmaceuticals."
vinces99 writes "Swarms of small earthquakes often precede a volcanic eruption. They can reach such rapid succession that they create a "harmonic tremor" that resembles sound made by some musical instruments. A new analysis of an eruption sequence at Alaska's Redoubt Volcano in March 2009 shows the harmonic tremor glided to substantially higher frequencies and then stopped abruptly just before six of the eruptions. Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey's Alaska Volcano Observatory have dubbed the highest-frequency harmonic tremor at Redoubt Volcano 'the screams' because the episodes reach such high pitch compared with a 1-to-5 hertz starting point. Alicia Hotovec-Ellis, a University of Washington doctoral student in Earth and space sciences and an author of two papers examining the phenomenon, has created a 10-second recording and a one-minute recording that provides a 60-times faster representation of harmonic tremor and small earthquakes."
First time accepted submitter eionmac writes "The BBC reports that Archaeologists believe they have discovered the world's oldest lunar 'calendar' in an Aberdeenshire field. Excavations of a field at Crathes Castle found a series of 12 pits which appear to mimic the phases of the moon and track lunar months. A team led by the University of Birmingham suggests the ancient monument was created by hunter-gatherers about 10,000 years ago. The pit alignment, at Warren Field, was first excavated in 2004. The experts who analyzed the pits said they may have contained a wooden post. The Mesolithic calendar is thousands of years older than previous known formal time-measuring monuments created in Mesopotamia. The analysis has been published in the journal Internet Archaeology."
united_notions writes "An international team from UCSD and Philips Research have published a paper (article paywalled; extensive free related resources at UCS here) in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, showing the results of real-time magnetic resonance imaging conducted on a beatboxing performer. The authors make interesting comparisons to sounds in many minority languages around the world (such as the 'click' consonants in many African languages); they also show how beatboxing sounds can be represented using the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)."
Garin writes "The late Permian saw the greatest mass extinction event of all-time. The causes for this extinction are hotly debated, but one key piece of the puzzle has recently been revealed: while the deep-water environments were anoxic, shallower waters showed clear signs of being oxygenated. This rules out global anoxia, and strongly suggests that other factors, such as the Siberian Traps vulcanism, must have played a dominant role. From the article: 'Rather than the direct cause of global extinction, anoxia may be more a contributing factor along with numerous other impacts associated with Siberian Traps eruption and other perturbations to the Earth system.' See the full research article (behind a paywall) here."
symbolset writes "Discovery News is covering a project by two engineers from the University of Michigan to pair cubesats with tiny ion engines for inexpensive interplanetary exploration. The tiny plasma drive called the CubeSat Ambipolar Thruster (CAT) will ionize water and use it as propellant with power provided by solar cells. In addition to scaling down the size of ion engines they hope to bring down the whole cost of development and launch to under $200,000."
judgecorp writes "NHS Surrey, part of Britain's health service, has been fined £200,000 when a computer holding more than 3000 patient records was found for sale on eBay. The system was retired, and given to a contractor who promised to dispose of it securely for free, in exchange for any salvage value... but clearly just put the whole system up for sale."
aarondubrow writes "Researchers reported results in Nature Communications on a new way of sculpting tailor-made fluid flows by placing tiny pillars in microfluidic channels [abstract; article is paywalled]. The method could allow clinicians to better separate white blood cells in a sample, increase mixing in industrial applications, and more quickly perform lab-on-a-chip-type operation. Using the Ranger and Stampede supercomputers, the researchers ran more than 1,000 simulations representing combinations of speeds, thicknesses, heights or offsets that produce unique flows. This library of transformations will help the broader community design and use sculpted fluid flows."
HonorPoncaCityDotCom writes "For all the wonders of fresh broccoli, in most parts of the country it is only available from local growers during the cooler weeks at either end of the growing season, nowhere near long enough to become a fixture in grocery stores or kitchens. But now Michael Moss writes in the NY Times that Thomas Bjorkman is out to change all that by creating a new version of the plant that can thrive in hot, steamy summers like those in New York, South Carolina or Iowa and is easy and inexpensive enough to grow in large volumes. And Bjorkman's quest doesn't stop there: His crucifer is also crisp, subtly sweet and utterly tender when eaten fresh-picked and aims to maximize the concentration of glucoraphanin, a mildly toxic compound used by plants to fight insects that in humans may stimulate our bodies' natural chemical defenses to aid in preventing cancer and warding off heart disease. The Eastern Broccoli Project's goal is to create a regional food network for an increasingly important and nutritious vegetable that may serve as a model network for other specialty crops to help shift American attitudes toward fruits and vegetables by increasing their allure and usefulness in cooking, while increasing their nutritional loads. 'If you've had really fresh broccoli, you know it's an entirely different thing,' says Bjorkman, a plant scientist at Cornell University. 'And if the health-policy goal is to vastly increase the consumption of broccoli, then we need a ready supply, at an attractive price.'"
Lasrick writes "Brad Plumer details the 1859 solar storm known as the Carrington Event. Pretty fascinating stuff: 'At the time, it was a dazzling display of nature. Yet if the same thing happened today, it would be an utter catastrophe...That's not a lurid sci-fi fantasy. It's a sober new assessment by Lloyd's of London, the world's oldest insurance market. The report notes that even a much smaller solar-induced geomagnetic storm in 1989 left 6 million people in Quebec without power for nine hours.'"
MarkWhittington writes "The Denver Post reported on July 12, 2013 that Texas and Florida, already embroiled in a fight over which state will be the venue for SpaceX's commercial space port, are now vying to be the site of the headquarters of a company that, while smaller, has much loftier ambitions. Golden Spike, the Boulder, Colorado based company that proposes to start commercial space flights to the moon with paying customers, is being courted by Texas and Florida to leave Colorado and to relocate its headquarters in either state."
snydeq writes "The U.S. health care industry is undergoing several massive transformations, not the least of which is the shift to interoperable EHR (electronic health records) systems. The ONC's Doug Fridsma discusses the various issues that many health care IT and medical providers have raised regarding use of these systems, which are mandated for 2014 under the HITECH Act of 2004, and are all the more important in light of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. Key to the transition, says Fridsma, is transforming health IT for EHRs into something more akin to the Internet, and less like traditional ERP and IT systems. 'I think what we're trying to do is the equivalent of what you've got in the Internet, which is horizontal integration rather than vertical integration,' Fridsma says. 'We've done a lot of work looking at what other countries have done, and we've tried to learn from those experiences. Rather than trying to build this top down and create restrictions, we're really trying to ask, "What's the path of least regret in what we need to do?"'"
New submitter tchernobog writes "An Italian team funded by Telethon and S. Raffaele of Milan, was able to cure six kids affected by lethal genetic diseases (in Italian, English video): the Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome and the metachromatic leukodystrophy. This is the culmination of a project lasted 15 years, and which cost more than 30M €; the researchers published some preliminary results last year in Nature, and are waiting for the results on more patients to submit another. The really interesting part is: they used a mix of advanced genetic techniques to achieve this result. Firstly, the DNA of a defective cell is corrected with a gene assembled in the lab. This procedure has been very dangerous for the past 20 years: that it can even be used is a good achievement alone. Secondly, the corrected DNA is propagated in the patient's body using a stripped-down version of HIV, of which less than 10% of its original genome remains. Might the feared HIV in reality prove to be salvation for some?"
First time accepted submitter HonorPoncaCityDotCom writes "Khadeeja Safdar reports in the WSJ that researchers who surveyed 655 incoming college students found that while math and science majors drew the most interest initially, not many students finished with degrees in those subjects. Students who dropped out didn't do so because they discovered an unexpected amount of the work and because they were dissatisfied with their grades. "Students knew science was hard to begin with, but for a lot of them it turned out to be much worse than what they expected," says Todd R. Stinebrickner, one of the paper's authors. "What they didn't expect is that even if they work hard, they still won't do well." The authors add that the substantial overoptimism about completing a degree in science can be attributed largely to students beginning school with misperceptions about their ability to perform well academically in science. ""If more science graduates are desired, the findings suggest the importance of policies at younger ages that lead students to enter college better prepared (PDF) to study science.""
ananyo writes "A navy-blue world orbiting a faraway star is the first exoplanet to have its colour measured. Discovered in 2005, HD 189733 b is one of the best-studied planets outside the Solar System, orbiting a star about 19 parsecs away in the Vulpecula, or Fox, constellation. Previous efforts to observe the planet focused on the infrared light it emits — invisible to the human eye. Astronomers have now used the Hubble Space Telescope to observe the planet and its host star. Hubble's optical resolution is not high enough to actually 'see' the planet as a dot of light separate from its star, so instead, the telescope receives light from both objects that mix into a single point source. To isolate the light contribution of the planet, the researchers waited for the planet to move behind the star during its orbit, so that its light would be blocked, and looked for changes in light colour. During the eclipse, the amount of observed blue light decreased, whereas other colours remained unaffected. This indicated that the light reflected by the planet's atmosphere, blocked by the star in the eclipse, is blue."
vinces99 writes "The basics of how a muscle generates power remain the same: Filaments of myosin tugging on filaments of actin shorten, or contract, the muscle – but the power doesn't just come from what's happening straight up and down the length of the muscle, as has been assumed for 50 years. Instead, new research shows that as muscles bulge, the filaments are drawn apart from each other, the myosin tugs at sharper angles over greater distances, and it's that action that deserves credit for half the change in muscle force scientists have been measuring."
coondoggie writes "The space missions to Mars have so far been one way — satellites and robotic rovers have all gone there to stay. NASA, as part a of a new, ambitious Mars visit, wants to change that by sending a rover to the surface of the Red Planet which can dig up chunks of the surface and send them back to Earth for highly detailed examination. These plans were laid out in a lengthy report outlining mission plans for Mars that will be acted upon over the next decade. It says a retrieval mission 'could occur as early as the mid-2020s or wait until the 2030s.'"
astroengine writes "As NASA's New Horizons probe powers through interplanetary space, it's keeping a careful eye forward, watching its target gradually loom larger on the proverbial celestial horizon. But earlier this month the spacecraft spotted something right next to Pluto — a pixelated Charon, the dwarf planet's largest moon. 'The image itself might not look very impressive to the untrained eye, but compared to the discovery images of Charon from Earth, these 'discovery' images from New Horizons look great!' said New Horizons Project Scientist Hal Weaver, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, MD. 'We're very excited to see Pluto and Charon as separate objects for the first time from New Horizons.'"
Michi writes "According to Anatoly Zak, the crash of the Russion Proton rocket on 1 July was apparently caused by several angular velocity sensors having been installed upside down. From the source: 'Each of those sensors had an arrow that was supposed to point toward the top of the vehicle, however multiple sensors on the failed rocket were pointing downward instead.' It seems amazing that something as fundamental as this was not caught during quality control. Even more amazing is that the design of the sensors permits them to be installed in the wrong orientation in the first place. Even the simplest of mechanical interlocks (such as a notch at one end that must be matched with a corresponding projection) could have prevented the accident." A review of the quality control procedures used by the contractors responsible is underway.
ph4cr writes with news that a few researchers have discovered an alloy that allows them to print 3D structures from liquid metal at room temperature. From the article: "'It's difficult to create structures out of liquids, because liquids want to bead up. But we’ve found that a liquid metal alloy of gallium and indium reacts to the oxygen in the air at room temperature to form a "skin" that allows the liquid metal structures to retain their shapes,' says Dr. Michael Dickey, an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the work. ... One technique involves stacking droplets of liquid metal on top of each other, much like a stack of oranges at the supermarket. The droplets adhere to one another, but retain their shape – they do not merge into a single, larger droplet. ... Another technique injects liquid metal into a polymer template, so that the metal takes on a specific shape. The template is then dissolved, leaving the bare, liquid metal in the desired shape. The researchers also developed techniques for creating liquid metal wires, which retain their shape even when held perpendicular to the substrate." The paper is available online. There's also a video of the process in action, below the fold.
MarkWhittington writes "Two House Democrats, Reps. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), have proposed a bill called Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act, H.R. 2617 (PDF), that would establish the Apollo Lunar Landing Sites National Historical Park at all the Apollo lunar landing sites, according to a story in The Hill. 'The park would be comprised of all artifacts left on the surface of the moon from the Apollo 11 through 17 missions. The bill says these sites need to be protected because of the anticipated increase in commercial moon landings in the future.'"
RocketAcademy writes "Arduino, the popular open-source microcontroller board, is powering a revolution in low-cost space-mission design. San Francisco-based Planet Labs, a spinoff of NASA's PhoneSat project, has raised $13 million to launch a flock of 28 Arduino-based nanosatellites for remote sensing. Planet Labs launched two test satellites this spring; Flock-1 is scheduled to launch on an Orbital Sciences Antares rocket in 2014. NanoSatisifi, also based in San Francisco-based company, is developing the Arduino-based ArduSat, which carries a variety of sensors. NanoSatisifi plans to rent time on ArduSats to citizen scientists and experimenters, who will be able upload their own programs to the satellites. The first ArduSat is scheduled for launch August 4 on a Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle carrying supplies to the International Space Station. The cost of orbital launches remains a limiting factor, however. As a result, Infinity Aerospace has developed the Arduino-based ArduLab experiment platform, which is compatible with new low-cost suborbital spacecraft as well as higher-end systems such as the International Space Station. The non-profit Citizens in Space has purchased 10 flights on the XCOR Lynx spacecraft, which will be made available to the citizen-science community. Citizens in Space is looking for 100 citizen-science experiments and 10 citizen astronauts to fly as payload operators. To help spread the word, it is holding a Space Hacker Workshop in Dallas, Texas on July 20-21. Infinity Aerospace will be on hand to teach Arduino hardware and software."
bmahersciwriter writes "The new type of clock, called an optical lattice clock could replace the cesium fountain clocks used as the standard for time keeping. Indeed, it could redefine the second. The cesium fountain is predicted to keep time within one second over 100 million years. While other atomic clocks are better than that, researchers suspect the optical lattice is better still and could one day replace the standard."
Zothecula writes "NASA scientists have unleashed a new robot on the arctic terrain of Greenland to demonstrate that its ability to operate with complete autonomy in one of Earth's harshest environments. Named GROVER, which stands for both Greenland Rover and Goddard Remotely Operated Vehicle for Exploration and Research, the polar robotic ranger carries ground-penetrating radar for analysis of snow and ice, and an autonomous system that is operated over an Iridium satellite connection. All of that is placed between two solar panels and two snowmobile tracks."
cylonlover writes "Li-ion batteries may be ok for your smartphone, but when it comes to large-scale energy storage, the priorities suddenly shift from compactness and cycling performance (at which Li-ion batteries excel) to low cost and environmental feasibility (in which Li-ion batteries still have much room for improvement). A new 'wood battery' could allow the emerging sodium-ion battery technology to fit the bill as a long-lasting, efficient and environmentally friendly battery for large-scale energy storage."
theodp writes "National Geographic takes a high-level look at the physics behind waterslides. A lot of science goes into providing a safe 60 mph trip down slides like Walt Disney World's 10-story Summit Plummet. 'Safety is our number one concern,' explains Rick Hunter of ProSlide Technology. 'We're thinking about things like, "are you going to stay on the fiberglass tube," it's really easy to do a computer model and look at curves and drops and forecast rider position and speed.'"
jpyeck writes "Lake Vostok, Antarctica's biggest and deepest subsurface lake, might contain thousands of different kinds of tiny organisms — and perhaps bigger fish as well, researchers report. The lake, buried under more than 2 miles (3.7 kilometers) of Antarctic ice, has been seen as an earthly analog for ice-covered seas on such worlds as Europa and Enceladus. It's thought to have been cut off from the outside world for as long as 15 million years. But the latest results, reported in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, suggest that the lake isn't as sterile or otherworldly as some scientists might have thought. More than 3,500 different DNA sequences were identified in samples extracted from layers of ice that have built up just above the surface of the lake."
An anonymous reader writes "This movie clip shows Phobos, the larger of the two moons of Mars, passing overhead, as observed by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity in a series of images centered straight overhead starting shortly after sunset. Phobos first appears near the lower center of the view and moves toward the top of the view. The clip runs at accelerated speed; the amount of time covered in it is about 27 minutes"
An anonymous reader writes "Designer Amy Radcliffe has created an 'analog odor camera' that can be used to recreate a smell. From the article: 'When a smell source is placed under the device's glass cone, a pump extracts the smell via a plastic tube. After being drawn to Madeleine's main unit, the smell goes through a resin trap which absorbs the particles so molecular information can be recorded. That data is expressed in a graph-like formula, which essentially contains a fingerprint of the smell. In a special lab, that formula can then be inscribed on a bronze disk to artificially reproduce the smell. The smell can also be recreated in small vials.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Biologist Janine Benyus is excited about the 3-D printer revolution and she thinks it can be improved by modeling natural processes. 'Benyus, who wrote Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature and co-founded the institute Biomimicry 3.8, would like to see a transition in manufacturing—from big, smoke-belching factories to small, clean desktop printers. The key to making it truly sustainable, she said, lies in mimicking how a natural ecosystem functions. "Nature uses life-friendly chemistry, which is nontoxic and water-based, and which does not require high heat," said Benyus. In contrast, most of the products people use today have been forged in industrial-size furnaces, with a plethora of toxic solvents. A potato chip bag may seem like a simple item, but it is actually made up of several thin layers of different materials, one to make it strong, one to make it airtight, and so on.'"
An anonymous reader writes "A new computer simulated map has revealed the past position of the Australian, Antarctic and Indian tectonic plates, demonstrating how they formed the supercontinent Gondwana 165 million years ago. 'It was a simple technique, matching the geological boundaries on each plate. The geological units formed before the continents broke apart, so we used their position to put this ancient jigsaw puzzle back together again,' said Lloyd White of Royal Holloway University in a press release. 'We found that many existing studies had positioned the plates in the wrong place because the geological units did not align on each plate.'"
An anonymous reader writes "If aliens are out there, the United Kingdom is determined to find them, as seen in the recent launch of a network called the UK Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence (UKSETI), which combines the efforts and know-how of academics from 11 institutions from across the country."
An anonymous reader writes "Sixteen years ago, the Mars Pathfinder lander touched down on Mars and began collecting about the atmosphere and geology of the Red Planet. Its original mission was planned to last somewhere between a week and a month, but it only took a few days for software problems to crop up. The engineers responsible for the system were forced to diagnose the problem and issue a patch for a device that was millions of miles away. From the article: 'The Pathfinder's applications were scheduled by the VxWorks RTOS. Since VxWorks provides pre-emptive priority scheduling of threads, tasks were executed as threads with priorities determined by their relative urgency. The meteorological data gathering task ran as an infrequent, low priority thread, and used the information bus synchronized with mutual exclusion locks (mutexes). Other higher priority threads took precedence when necessary, including a very high priority bus management task, which also accessed the bus with mutexes. Unfortunately in this case, a long-running communications task, having higher priority than the meteorological task, but lower than the bus management task, prevented it from running. Soon, a watchdog timer noticed that the bus management task had not been executed for some time, concluded that something had gone wrong, and ordered a total system reset.'"
garymortimer writes "SpaceX's Grasshopper flew 325 m (1066 feet) – higher than Manhattan's Chrysler Building – before smoothly landing back on the pad. For the first time in this test, Grasshopper made use of its full navigation sensor suite with the F9-R closed loop control flight algorithms to accomplish a precision landing. Most rockets are equipped with sensors to determine position, but these sensors are generally not accurate enough to accomplish the type of precision landing necessary with Grasshopper."
MTorrice writes "When hospital patients develop nasty, antibiotic-resistant infections, the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa is often the culprit. In a new approach to killing the pathogen, researchers genetically modified harmless Escherichia coli bacteria to detect and destroy P. aeruginosa. The E. coli spot a specific chemical released by the pathogen and then secrete a toxin to kill it (abstract)."
seagirlreed writes "Rocket traffic may be adding water to the Earth's mesosphere, leading to more very high clouds in this layer of thin air on the edge of space. From the article: 'A team of researchers looking for an expected decrease in the number of clouds in this layer, as solar activity and heating have ramped up, were instead surprised to find an increase in the number and brightness of clouds in this near-outer-space region over the last two years. ... The source of the water to make the clouds is a puzzle, Siskind explained, because there is not much sign of it coming up into the mesosphere. On the other hand, rockets and, until recently, shuttles roaming in space could rain water exhaust down into the mesosphere.'"
coondoggie writes "As if landing on an asteroid wouldn't be dangerous enough, a new microgravity experiment on the forces generated by an asteroid and its make-up suggests landing on one may cause a big avalanche. The rubble and dust covering asteroids and comets can feel changes in what is known as 'force-chains' between particles over much larger distances than on Earth, making these surfaces less stable than previously imagined, said Dr. Ben Rozitis of the Open University, who presented his experiment's findings (abstract) on July 4 at the National Astronomy Meeting."
trawg writes "A new Australian study on the effect of violent video games on Australia has just been published, failing to find any evidence that playing video games affects prosocial behavior. The study compared groups who played different types of games, including notably violent titles like Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty, as well as non-violent titles like Portal, comparing their behavioral response through a simple pen-drop experiment. In a follow-up interview, the researcher said his perspective on how violence might affect people has changed since he started the research: 'I've played video games for most of my life and got into this research because I couldn't believe that violent video games could make me do something I didn't want to do, that is, be aggressive. My attitude has changed somewhat. These days I find it totally plausible that violent video games could influence people's behavior, but the real question is whether their influence is harmful, and I'm not yet convinced of that.'"
Charliemopps writes "On June 23rd, 2013, asteroid (5099) was officially named Iainbanks by the IAU, and will be referred to as such for as long as Earth Culture may endure. The official citation reads, 'Iain M. Banks (1954-2013) was a Scottish writer best known for the Culture series of science fiction novels; he also wrote fiction as Iain Banks. An evangelical atheist and lover of whiskey, he scorned social media and enjoyed writing music. He was an extra in Monty Python & The Holy Grail.'"
willith writes "I got to sit down with ISS TOPO Flight Controller Josh Parris at the Houston Mission Control Center and talk about how NASA steers all 400 tons of the International Space Station around potential collisions, or 'conjunctions,' in NASA-parlance. The TOPO controller, with assistance from USSTRATCOM's big radars, keeps track of every object that will pass within a 'pizza-box'-shaped 50km x 50km x 4km perimeter around the ISS. Actually moving the station is done with a combination of large control moment gyros and thrusters on both the Zvezda module and visiting vehicles. It's a surprisingly complex operation!"
MarkWhittington writes "According to a July 3, 2013 story in SpaceRef, NASA has issued a Request for Information concerning various commercial endeavors to create robotic lunar landers. NASA appears to be interested in assisting in those projects with a view of using the resulting vehicles for its own exploration plans. Officially, thanks to a mandate by President Obama, NASA is not planning its own crewed mission to the moon. However the space agency seems to be interested in supporting, in some way, a commercially run lunar base. Joint robotic lunar landings might be seen as the start of such an effort."
ananyo writes "Transplanting tiny 'liver buds' constructed from human stem cells restores liver function in mice, researchers have found. Although preliminary, the results offer a potential path towards developing treatments for the thousands of patients awaiting liver transplants every year. The liver buds, approximately 4 mm across, staved off death in mice with liver failure, the researchers report this week in Nature (abstract.). The transplanted structures also took on a range of liver functions — secreting liver-specific proteins and producing human-specific metabolites. But perhaps most notably, these buds quickly hooked up with nearby blood vessels and continued to grow after transplantation."
Daniel_Stuckey writes with a snippet from his piece at Vice: "I did some calculations in Excel, using independence dates provided on About.com, and found the average age of a country is about 158.78 years old. Now, before anyone throws a tizzy about what makes a country a country, about nations, tribes, civilizations, ethnic categories, or about my makeshift methodology, keep in mind, I simply assessed 195 countries based on their political sovereignty. That is the occasion we're celebrating today, right?"
astroengine writes "Astronomers were on a celestial fishing expedition for pulsing neutron stars and other radio bursts when they found something unexpected in archived sky sweeps conducted by the Parkes radio telescope in New South Wales, Australia. The powerful signal, which lasted for just milliseconds, could have been a fluke, but then the team found three more equally energetic transient flashes all far removed from the galactic plane and coming from different points in the sky. Astronomers are at a loss to explain what these flashes are — they could be a common astrophysical phenomenon that has only just been detected as our radio antennae have become sensitive enough, or they could be very rare and totally new phenomenon that, so far, defies explanation."
ckwu writes "Scientists at Boston University have put together an inexpensive microelectromechanical machine that can direct atoms onto a surface in a controlled manner (abstract). The device—which acts as a moving stencil—can lay down such precise, complex patterns that the technique is akin to writing with atoms, the researchers say. They've used the machine to draw rings and infinity symbols out of gold atoms, but the technique should be compatible with almost any material."