smitty777 writes "The two washing machine sized satellites from the GRAIL program (Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory) launched in September are set to enter lunar orbit this weekend. As can be seen from this nifty infographic, the probes will monitor the gravitational field from orbit via the precise distance measurements of microwaves passing between the two satellites. From the article: 'The twin spacecrafts are named Grail-A and Grail-B. Grail-A will enter the moon's orbit on New Year's Eve, Grail-B will follow on New Year's Day. "The purpose of the GRAIL mission is to obtain gravity data on the Moon. And with that data, the scientists are able to determine the structure of the lunar interior, from crust to core," said David Lehman of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.' This is similar to the earlier GRACE project, which not only helped map out the gravity field of the Earth, but also helped map drought conditions in the U.S."
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ananyo writes "Strange fossils from Doushantuo in China, have turned out to be 570-million-year-old snapshots of an organism caught in the act of reproducing. Researchers have used three-dimensional X-ray scanning techniques to see that the fossils contain nuclei-like structures — and one even has the dumb-bell shape of a modern nucleus about to replicate. The fossils have divided palaeontologists for over a decade. It now seems likely they are fossils of creatures similar to modern single-celled microorganisms called mesomycetozoeans that are neither animals nor bacteria."
PolygamousRanchKid writes "A Siberian resident miraculously escaped serious injury or even death when a fragment of a Russian communication satellite crashed through the roof of his house. A Meridian satellite that was launched Friday from the Plesetsk space center in northern Russia on board a Soyuz-2 carrier rocket crashed near the Siberian city of Tobolsk minutes after lift-off. A titanium ball of about five kg fell on to the roof of a house in Ordyn district."
Hugh Pickens writes writes "For decades, mystified scientists have chalked up Santa's power to the inexplicable wonder of magic, but North Carolina State University aerospace engineer Larry Silverberg, team leader on a first-of-its-kind visiting scholars program at Santa's Workshop-North Pole Labs (NPL), says that Santa is, in fact, a scientific genius and that Silverberg looks forward to Christmas each year, so he can ponder the remarkable accomplishments of one of the greatest pioneers in his field. 'Santa is not just a jolly old elf,' says Silverberg. 'He really has an understanding of engineering, technology, science that's far beyond our own.' It all starts at the North Pole where Santa has an elaborate technical setup that rivals the nerve center of the CIA including an underground antenna that listens to children's thoughts. 'He takes those signals and finds out whether the child has been naughty or nice, and ultimately, what present the child wants.' Santa's mastery of nanotechnology allows Santa to grow presents on the spot eschewing the necessity of carrying them on the sleigh which would be prohibitive because of the weight. Then there's Santa's sleigh itself, an advanced aerodynamic structure equipped with laser sensors to find the optimal path, and covered by a nanostructured 'skin' that is porous and contains its own low-pressure system, which holds the air flowing around the airborne sled onto the body, reducing drag by as much as 90 percent. Finally there's Santa's greatest invention, the relativity cloud, that bends time and space to allow for his round-the-world Christmas journey and explains why Santa is so seldom seen. 'Relativity clouds are controllable domains – rips in time – that allow him months to deliver presents while only a few minutes pass on Earth. The presents are truly delivered in a wink of an eye.'"
redletterdave writes "In mid-November, a hollow space ball fell from the sky and crashed into the earth in Namibia, the African nation situated above South Africa and west of Botswana and Zimbabwe. Authorities recovered the sphere in a grassy village north of Windhoek, the country's capital. The hollow ball, which appears to be made of 'two halves welded together,' has a rough surface, a 14-inch diameter and measures 43 inches around. The strange globe created a crater 13 inches deep and almost 12.5 feet wide, but was found almost 60 feet from the landing spot. Paul Ludik, the police forensics director investigating the case, says the dense ball weighs 13 pounds and is made of a 'metal alloy known to man.' NASA and the European Space Agency will both help investigate the strange occurrence."
xmas2003 writes "Over at Linux.com, Zonker writes about Alek's Controllable Christmas Lights for Celiac Disease. This annual Internet tradition uses a hi/low-tech combo of LAMP'ed Redhat Web Servers, a 7+ year old Thinkpad running Ubuntu for the X10 control, and an old-school webpage design that could be politely described as Web 0.0 — wait until you see the animated cursor — D'OH! The site is free (and totally fun) as it also raises awareness and donations for Celiac Disease — over $70,000 to the University of Maryland. Nifty pictures of the crazy christmas display can be seen on the Christmas Blog (notice Clifford Stoll's The Cuckoo's Egg in post #220) plus watch videos of it in action with comedic history. Nothing quite says Christmas like a giant, inflatable HULK wearing a Santa Hat... along with three wise men of Elmo, SpongeBob, and Homer Simpson. The Slashdot Effect of turning 21,000 Christmas lights ON & OFF this evening should provide quite a Christmas Eve show to Alek's neighbors... and also the International Space Station."
An anonymous reader writes "The Large Hadron Collider has many fans, and one of its biggest is Sasha Mehlhase, a physicist from the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen. Mehlhase has decided to help promote the LHC to students by taking the time to recreate a 1:50 scale model of it using Lego bricks. In total he spent 81 hours creating it, which was split between 48 hours of designing the model on his laptop, and a further 33 hours putting it together."
astroengine writes "Three hours before a new crew arrived at the International Space Station on Friday, bringing the outpost back up to full staff for the first time in months, Russia racked up its fifth launch accident within a year. A Soyuz-2 rocket carrying a military communications satellite failed to reach orbit after blastoff from the Plesetsk space center in northern Russia. The botched launch is again due to an upper-stage engine problem."
New submitter SciComGeek writes "Few laypeople think of computing innovation in connection with the Tevatron particle accelerator, which shut down earlier this year. Mention of the Tevatron inspires images of majestic machinery, or thoughts of immense energies and groundbreaking physics research, not circuit boards, hardware, networks, and software. Yet over the course of more than three decades of planning and operation, a tremendous amount of computing innovation was necessary to keep the data flowing and physics results coming. Those innovations will continue to influence scientific computing and data analysis for years to come."
New submitter ChromeAeonium writes "Much like vaccines and evolution, there exists a great disparity between the scientific consensus and the public perceptions of the safety of genetically engineered crops. A previous study from France, which was later dismissed by the EFSA, FSANZ, and the French High Council of Biotechnologies, claiming to have found abnormalities in the organs of animals fed GM diets by analyzing three previous studies was discussed on Slashdot. However, a new study, also out of France, claims the opposite is true, that GM crops are unlikely to pose health risks (translation of original in French). Looking at 24 long-term and multi-generational studies on insect resistant and herbicide tolerant plants, the study states, 'The studies reviewed present evidence to show that GM plants are nutritionally equivalent to their non-GM counterparts and can be safely used in food and feed.' Although it is impossible to prove a negative, and while every GM crop must be individually evaluated as genetic engineering is a process not a product, perhaps this study will help to ease the fears of genetically engineered food and foster a more scientific discussion on the role of agricultural biotechnology."
Hugh Pickens writes "Do you have what it takes to become an astronaut? NASA, the world's leader in space and aeronautics, is now hiring outstanding scientists, engineers, and other talented professionals until January 27, 2012 for full time, permanent employment to carry forward the great discovery process that its mission demands. 'Creativity. Ambition. Teamwork. A sense of daring. And a probing mind.' To qualify, you'll need at least a bachelor's degree in science, engineering or mathematics. Certain degrees are immediate disqualifiers, including nursing, social sciences, aviation, exercise physiology, technology, and some psychology degrees, too. The job listing mandates '1,000 hours pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft' unless you have three years of 'related, progressively responsible, professional experience' like being an astronaut somewhere else maybe? 'Since astronauts will be expected to fly on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft, they must fit Russia's physical requirements for cosmonauts. That means no one under 5 foot 2 inches or over 6 foot 3 inches.' Applicants brought in for interviews will be measured to make sure they meet the job application's 'anthropometric requirements.' You'll need to pass a drug test, a comprehensive background check, a swimming test, and have 20/20 vision in each eye and it almost goes without saying that candidates will need to be in 'incredible shape.' Applicants must pass NASA's long-duration space flight physical, which evaluates individuals based on 'physical, physiological, psychological, and social' stressors, like one's ability to work in small, confined spaces for hours on end. And of course...'Frequent travel may be required.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Researchers at Notre Dame have created a nanoparticle paste, which acts as the main ingredient in solar cells that are very easy to construct. In a short video clip, they can be seen assembling a functional solar cell with little more than a heat gun, tape, and some binder clips. The paste is made from a mix of t-butanol, water, and a mix of cadmium selenide with cadmium sulfide nanoparticles. So far, the experimental devices are not nearly as efficient as standard solar cells, but they were just developed. If the materials were slightly less toxic, it might even be a project that kids could do at home."
astroengine writes "The sungrazing comet that survived the plunge deep into the solar corona, only to escape after swinging behind the sun last week, has posed for an extraordinary photograph. Space station commander Dan Burbank caught Comet Lovejoy and its impressive tail hanging above the Earth's horizon as it begins its long journey back into deep space."
bricko writes with a description of NOAA's Gaea supercomputer, being assembled at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. It's some big iron: 1.1 petaflops, based on 16-core Interlagos chips from AMD, and built by Cray. "The system, which is used for climate modeling and resource, also includes two separate Lustre parallel file systems 'that handle data sets that rank among the world's largest,' ORNL said. 'NOAA research partners access the system remotely through speedy wide area connections. Two 10-gigabit (billion bit) lambdas, or optical waves, pass data to NOAA's national research network through peering points at Atlanta and Chicago.'"
First time accepted submitter m4ktub writes "A team of researchers working with the ATLAS experiment at the LHC have published an article in arXiv where they describe what is believed to be the first observation of a new particle: the boson Chi-b (3P). Professor Roger Jones, Head of the Lancaster ATLAS group, said 'While people are rightly interested in the Higgs boson, which we believe gives particles their mass and may have started to reveal itself, a lot of the mass of everyday objects comes from the strong interaction we are investigating using the Chi-b.'"
astroengine writes "Scientists have found a system of planets that appears to have survived being engulfed by their dying parent star. The discovery raises questions about the ultimate fate of our solar system when the sun runs out of hydrogen gas in about 5 billion years and violently transform into an expanding red giant star. Scientists believe all the planets from Earth inward will be destroyed when the sun expands, but new research suggests that if planets are large enough, they may outlast their parent star's death, even if they are engulfed."
MrSeb writes "A crack team of engineers at the University of Illinois has developed an electronic circuit that autonomously self-heals when its metal wires are broken. This self-healing system restores conductivity within 'mere microseconds,' which is apparently fast enough that operation can continue without interruption. The self-healing mechanism is delightfully simple: The engineers place a bunch of 10-micron (0.01mm) microcapsules along the length of a circuit. The microcapsules are full of liquid metal, a gallium-indium alloy, and if the circuit underneath cracks, so do the microcapsules (90% of the time, anyway — the tech isn't perfect yet!). The liquid metal oozes into the circuit board, restoring up to 99% conductivity, and everything continues as normal. This even works with multi-layer printed circuit boards (PCBs), such the motherboard in your computer, too. There's no word on whether this same technology could one day be used by Terminators to self-heal shotgun blasts to the face, but it certainly sounds quite similar. The immediate use-cases are in extreme environments (aerospace), and batteries (which can't be taken apart to fix), but long term we might one day buy motherboards with these self-healing microcapsules built in."
slew writes "This article talks about a study accepted to Physical Review Letters which theorizes that iron oxide goes through an insulator/metal phase change with high temperature and pressure. Originally it was thought to be a crystalline structure change, but now apparently it is theorized to be a new type of metallic state. This discovery might offer new insight on how the earth's magnetic field operates."
Following up on a disturbing story we discussed in November, Meshach writes "The United States is asking scientific journals publishing details about biomedical research to censor articles out of fear that terrorists could acquire the information. 'In the experiments, conducted in the United States and the Netherlands, scientists created a highly transmissible form of a deadly flu virus that does not normally spread from person to person. It was an ominous step, because easy transmission can lead the virus to spread all over the world. The work was done in ferrets, which are considered a good model for predicting what flu viruses will do in people.' The panel cannot force the journals to censor their articles, but the editor of Science, Bruce Alberts, said the journal was taking the recommendations seriously and would most likely withhold some information. Are we heading for another Rorschach-style cheat sheet being developed?"
cylonlover writes "An audacious project to construct a vast infrastructure housing a neutrino observatory at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea is being undertaken by a consortium of 40 institutes and universities from ten European countries. The consortium claims that KM3NeT, as it is known, will 'open a new window on the Universe,' as its 'several' cubic kilometer observatory detects high-energy neutrinos from violent sources in outer space such as gamma-ray bursts, colliding stars and supernovae. On the scale of human constructions, it will be second only to the Great Wall of China."