An article at Ars examines three members of the U.S. House of Representatives who are seeking chairmanship of its Committee on Space, Science, and Technology. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) said in an interview, "My analysis is that in the global warming debate, we won. There were a lot of scientists who were just going along with the flow on the idea that mankind was causing a change in the world's climate. I think that after 10 years of debate, we can show that that there are hundreds if not thousands of scientists who have come over to being skeptics, and I don't know anyone [who was a skeptic] who became a believer in global warming." James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) has a similar record of opposing climate change, as does Lamar Smith (R-TX). Relatedly, Phil Plait, a.k.a. The Bad Astronomer, has posted an article highlighting how U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the Senate's Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, has declined to answer a question about how old the Earth is, calling it "one of the great mysteries."
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ananyo writes "Quantum-encryption systems that encode signals into a series of single photons have so far been unable to piggyback on existing telecommunications lines because they don't stand out from the millions of others in an optical fiber. But now, physicists using a technique for detecting dim light signals have transmitted a quantum key along 90 kilometers of noisy optical fiber. The feat could see quantum cryptography finally enter the mainstream. The researchers developed a detector that picks out photons only if they strike it at a precise instant, calculated on the basis of when the encoded photons were sent. The team's 'self-differentiating' detector activates for 100 picoseconds, every nanosecond. The weak charge triggered by a photon strike in this short interval would not normally stand out, but the detector measures the difference between the signal recorded during one operational cycle and the signal from the preceding cycle — when no matching photon was likely to be detected. This cancels out the background hum. Using this device, the team has transmitted a quantum key along a 90-kilometer fiber, which also carried noisy data at 1 billion bits per second in both directions — a rate typical of a telecommunications fiber."
33 Flatbush Ave. in the Brooklyn borough of what David Letterman calls "the world's greatest city." You go to the 7th floor. Congratulations. You have found New York City's community biolab, Genspace. It's a well-equipped facility without a single mad scientist in sight. Indeed, everyone here seems as happy as the people you see in a makerspace -- which should not be surprising, since Genspace is essentially a makerspace for biologists. It is confined to non-hazardous experiments, but there is plenty going on, including ongoing projects and courses with titles like DIY Neuroscience: Controlling Behavior from the Inside. You can keep up with Genspace by following their blog. And of course, if you're in the neighborhood you should stop in. It's a welcoming environment, dedicated to the idea that science is for everyone, not just a chosen few.
Randym writes "NASA scientists have some exciting new results from one of the rover's instruments. On the one hand, they'd like to tell everybody what they found, but on the other, they have to wait because they want to make sure their results are not just some fluke or error in their instrument. The exciting results are coming from an instrument in the rover called SAM. 'We're getting data from SAM as we sit here and speak, and the data looks really interesting,' says John Grotzinger. He's the principal investigator for the rover mission. SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars) is a suite of instruments onboard NASA's Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity. Grotzinger says they recently put a soil sample in SAM, and the analysis shows something Earth-shaking. 'This data is gonna be one for the history books. It's looking really good,' he says."
An anonymous reader writes "Harvard bioengineers have perfected injecting us with a drug-filled sponge instead of just a liquid. It may seem strange to want to inject a piece of sponge into your body, but it does actually help solve a number of invasive problems. For example, sometimes it is necessary to have drugs released slowly into our bodies, and/or some kind of bio-scaffold is required to be positioned so that it can help support a damaged organ or to engineer new tissue. This new, injectable sponge is incredibly useful because not only can it be filled with drugs that then are slowly released, it also has a memory and can be collapsed down to a tiny fraction of its original size."
ananyo writes with bad news for John Titor. From the article: "Four years after its closure, researchers working with data from the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center's particle physics experiment BaBar have used the data to make the first direct measurement confirming that time does not run the same forwards as backwards — at least for the B mesons that the experiment produced during its heyday. The application of quantum mechanics to fundamental particles rests on a symmetry known as CPT, for charge-parity-time, which states that fundamental processes remain unchanged when particles are replaced by their antimatter counterparts (C), left and right are reversed (P), and time runs in the reverse direction (T). Violations of C and P alone were first seen in radioactive decays in the 1950s, and BaBar was used to confirm violations of CP in B meson decays in 2001. To keep CPT intact, that implies that time reversal is also violated, but finding ways to compare processes running forward and backward in time has proven tricky. Theoretical physicists at the Universityof Valencia in Spain worked with researchers on BaBar to exploit the fact that the experiment had generated entangled quantum states of the meson Bzero and its antimatter counterpart Bzero-bar, which then evolved through several different decay chains. By comparing the rates of decay in chains in which one type of decay happened before another, with others in which the order was reversed, the researchers were able to compare processes that were effectively time reversed version of each other. They report in Physical Review Letters today that they see a violation of time reversal at an extremely high level of statistical significance."
ananyo writes "William 'Red' Whittaker often spends his Sundays lowering a robot into a recently blown up coal mine pit near his cattle ranch in Pennsylvania. By 2015, he hopes that his robot, or something like it, will be rappelling down a much deeper hole, on the Moon. The hole was discovered three years ago when Japanese researchers published images from the satellite SELENE1, but spacecraft orbiting the Moon have been unable to see into its shadowy recesses. A robot might be able to 'go where the Sun doesn't shine', and send back the first-ever look beneath the Moon's skin, Whittaker told attendees at a meeting of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program in Hampton, Virginia, last week. And Whittaker is worth taking seriously-his robots have descended into an Alaskan volcano and helped to clean up the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant."
iONiUM writes "From the article: 'Over the years at the U.N. climate talks, the goal has been to keep future global warming below 2C. But as those talks have faltered, emissions have kept rising, and that 2C goal is now looking increasingly out of reach. Lately, the conversation has shifted toward how to deal with 3C of warming. Or 4C. Or potentially more." Overall it seems that poorer, less developed nations will be largely impacted negatively, while some countries (like Canada and Russia) will actually experience benefits. Where does that leave the rest of the 1st world countries?"
The Bad Astronomer writes "While nearly a thousand planets are known to orbit other stars, getting direct pictures of them is extremely difficult due to the glare from their host stars. Fewer than a dozen images of exoplanets exist. However, we can now add one more to the list: Kappa Andromedae b, or Kap And b for short. It's about 170 light years away, and orbits Kappa And, a massive star bright enough to see with the naked eye. One hitch: its mass puts it right at the upper limit for a planet, and it may edge into brown dwarf territory. Further observations are needed to pin its mass down."
HangingChad writes "Scientists have used nanoparticles covered in proteins to trick the immune system to stop attacking myelin and halt the progression of multiple sclerosis in mice. The nanoparticles, about 200 times thinner than a human hair, are made from the same material as dissolving stitches. Scientists compare the process an immune system 'reboot'. The process keeps the immune system from treating myelin as an alien invader and to stop attacking it."
kkleiner writes "On the coattails of CERN's success with the Large Hadron Collider, Europeans and the world at large have another grand science project to be excited about: the Extreme Light Infrastructure project to build the most powerful laser ever constructed. These lasers will be intense enough to perform electron dynamics experiments at very short time scales or venture into relativistic optics, opening up an entirely new field of physics for study. Additionally, the lasers could be combined to generate a super laser that would shoot into space, similar to the combined laser effect of the Death Star in the Star Wars trilogy, though the goal is to study particles in space, not annihilate planets."
Dupple writes with some remarks by SpaceX founder Elon Musk, as reported by the BBC, on the Ariane 5 launch vehicle: Musk is anything but a disinterested party, but he has some especially harsh words for the ESA rocket: "'I don't say that with a sense of bravado but there's really no way for that vehicle to compete with Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy. If I were in the position of Ariane, I would really push for an Ariane 6.' Ariane's future will be a key topic this week for European Space Agency (Esa) member states. They are meeting in Naples to determine the scope and funding of the organisation's projects in the next few years, and the status of their big rocket will be central to those discussions."
An anonymous reader writes "Stanford researchers have developed a new algorithm (Abstract only) that significantly improves the control and performance of neural prosthetics — brain-controlled computer interfaces for individuals suffering from spinal cord injury and neurodegenerative disease to aid interaction with computers, drive electronic wheelchairs, and control robotic arms and legs. With this algorithm, monkeys implanted with multielectrode arrays in motor regions of their brain controlled a computer cursor more quickly and accurately than ever before, including navigation around obstacles. Further, the system maintained this high performance across 4 years, demonstrating long-term reliability. These improvements in performance and robustness are crucial for clinically-useful neural prosthetics, and pave the way for success in clinical trails."
An anonymous reader writes "Developers been working hard for the past few months to get Linux ported to the TI-Nspire calculator. The port is not yet fully stabilized nor quite ready for broad consumption and requires some user-level knowledge of Linux systems, but is definitely worth a try. Experimental support for root filesystem installed on USB mass storage is being worked on, so that Datalight's proprietary Flash FX/Reliance filesystem used by TI's OS isn't a limit anymore. This also means that the native TI-Nspire OS image is not replaced by the Linux system, and Linux can been booted on demand. Support for USB keyboard, X server, directFB, Wi-Fi (with the help of a powered USB hub) and text-based Internet browsing is progressively being added and tested."
lee1 writes "Using special techniques that present information to one eye while hiding the information from the conscious mind (by masking it with more distracting imagery presented to the other eye), researchers have shown two new and very unexpected things: we can read and understand short sentences, and we can perform multi-step arithmetic problems, entirely unconsciously. The results of the reading and calculating are available to and influence the conscious mind, but we remain unaware of their existence. While we have known for some time that a great deal of sensory processing occurs below the surface and affects our deliberative behavior, it was widely believed until now that the subconscious was not able to actually do arithmetic or parse sentences."
An anonymous reader writes with this snippet from cbc.ca: "'NASA's Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes (not to be outdone by the Kepler Space Telescope) have discovered the most distant galaxy identified so far in the universe... the galaxy is 13.3 billion light years away and only a tiny fraction of the size of the Milky Way. Due to the time it takes light to travel through space, the images seen from Earth now show what the galaxy looked like when the universe was just 420 million years old, according to a press statement released from NASA. The newly discovered galaxy (is) named MACS0647-JD."
scibri writes "Photographs of Einstein's brain taken shortly after his death, but never before analysed in detail, have now revealed that it had several unusual features, providing tantalizing clues about the neural basis of his extraordinary mental abilities. The most striking observation was 'the complexity and pattern of convolutions on certain parts of Einstein's cerebral cortex,' especially in the prefrontal cortex, and also parietal lobes and visual cortex. The prefrontal cortex is important for the kind of abstract thinking that Einstein would have needed for his famous thought experiments on the nature of space and time, such as imagining riding alongside a beam of light. The unusually complex pattern of convolutions there probably gave the region a larger-than-normal surface area, which may have contributed to his remarkable abilities."
cylonlover writes "It's been more than three and a half years since the Kepler Space Telescope began its mission as humanity's watcher for Earth-like planets outside of the Solar System. In that time, Kepler has done exactly what was asked of it: provide the data to help identify more than 2,300 exoplanet candidates in other star systems. And so NASA has announced the 'successful completion' of Kepler's prime mission. There's one nagging detail, though: we are yet to find a truly Earth-like planet. It's time to alter the parameters of the search, which is why NASA has announced Kepler will now begin an extended mission that could last as long as four years."
ananyo writes "Rappers making up rhymes on the fly while in a brain scanner have provided an insight into the creative process. Freestyle rapping — in which a performer improvises a song by stringing together unrehearsed lyrics — is a highly prized skill in hip hop. But instead of watching a performance in a club, Siyuan Liu and Allen Braun, neuroscientists at the U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders in Bethesda, Maryland, and their colleagues had 12 rappers freestyle in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine. The artists also recited a set of memorized lyrics chosen by the researchers. By comparing the brain scans from rappers taken during freestyling to those taken during the rote recitation, they were able to see which areas of the brain are used during improvisation. The rappers showed lower activity in part of their frontal lobes called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex during improvisation, and increased activity in another area, called the medial prefrontal cortex. The areas that were found to be 'deactivated' are associated with regulating other brain functions. The results echo an earlier study of jazz musicians. The findings also suggest an explanation for why new music might seem to the artist to be created of its own accord. With less involvement by the lateral prefrontal regions of the brain, the performance could seem to its creator to have 'occurred outside of conscious awareness,' the authors write in the paper." Bonus points for science rhymes; for anyone who has the time.
MrSeb writes "The dream of faster-than-light travel has been on the mind of humanity for generations. Until recently, though, it was restricted to the realm of pure science fiction. Theoretical mechanisms for warp drives have been posited by science, some of which actually jive quite nicely with what we know of physics. Of course, that doesn't mean they're actually going to work, though. NASA researchers recently revisited the Alcubierre warp drive and concluded that its power requirements were not as impossible as once thought. However, a new analysis from the University of Sydney claims that using a warp drive of this design comes with a drawback. Specifically, it could cause cataclysmic explosions at your destination."