Nerval's Lobster writes "The upcoming movie Gravity features a pair of astronauts (George Clooney and Sandra Bullock) stranded in orbit after their space shuttle is destroyed by floating debris. Faced with dwindling oxygen levels, they struggle to reach the nearby International Space Station (ISS). It's a movie, so some deviations from reality are expected, but it also opens up an opportunity to talk with a NASA astronaut about what it's like to live in space. Catherine 'Cady' Coleman, who has spent thousands of hours aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia and the International Space Station, who gave Bullock advice on the role, suggests that the real NASA has the whole orbital-debris issue well in hand, but that it takes a lot of training (and on-the-job experience) to get the hang of living in space. 'When we get up to space and the people up there run around and show us stuff — that's really, really effective and there was nothing like that compared to the classroom.' Despite the physical and mental demands, and the the time spent away from family, she sees the endeavor as supremely worth it. 'We're all very privileged to do this job,' Coleman says. 'They spend a lot of money making you ready, and you have a responsibility to do your job.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Consumer genomics company 23andMe has developed a system for helping prospective parents choose the traits of their offspring, from disease risk to hair color. The patent — number 8543339, "Gamete donor selection based on genetic calculations" — describes a technology that would take a customer's preferences for a child's traits, compute the likely genomic outcomes of combinations between a customer's sperm or egg and other people's sex cells, and describe which potential reproductive matches would most likely produce the desired baby."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Madison Park and Dayu Zhang report on CNN that swarms of aggressive hornets are inflicting a deadly toll in a central China killing 42 people and injuring 1,675 people in three cities in Shaanxi province since July. Government authorities say these attacks are from a particularly venomous species, the world's largest hornet, known as the Asian giant hornet or vespa mandarinia. The giant hornet extends about 3.5 to 3.9 centimeters in length, roughly the size of a human thumb and has an orange head with a black tooth used for burrowing. The Asian giant hornet is intensely predatory; it hunts medium- to large-sized insects, such as bees, other hornet species, and mantises. The pain of the Asian Giant Hornet is described as a hot nail piercing the skin and lasts about 4 hours with instant swelling. One victim told local media earlier this month that "the more you run, the more they want to chase you." Some victims described being chased about 200 meters (656 feet) by a swarm. Local authorities have deployed thousands of police officers and locals to destroy about 710 hives but ""It's very difficult to prevent the attacks because hornet nests are usually in hidden sites," says Shunichi Makino, director general of the Hokkaido Research Center for Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute. Makino, who specializes in entomology, warned that the sting from an Asian giant hornet was severe compared with those of other insects. "The venom of an Asian giant hornet is very special compared with other hornets or yellow jackets," says Makino. "The neurotoxin — especially to mammals including humans — it's a special brand of venom." Asian Giant Hornets have been spotted in the United States."
astroengine writes "Scientists managing the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) have released their first observations of the incoming Comet ISON. The MRO was commanded to turn away its perpetual Mars-ward gaze and point into deep space to capture its own snapshot of the famous comet. ISON is currently making its closest approach to the red planet, passing just 7 million miles from its surface. The first raw images were snapped on Sept. 29 when the object was 8 million miles from the planet and more images (taken on Oct. 1 and Oct. 2) are currently being processed."
cagraham writes "Agriculture giant Monsanto has purchased the weather analytics firm Climate Corporation for over $930 Millionl. Climate Corp, a firm founded by ex-Google data scientists and software engineers, specializes in hyper-local weather prediction which they use to recommend risk-management and crop-insurance policies for farmers. Monsanto likely wants to use this technology to boost their big data farming systems, and help better market their genetically engineered crop seeds. This news comes the same day that Monsanto posted increased Q4 losses of $0.47 per share."
dryriver writes "A team of dentists has created a toothbrush they say can clean teeth thoroughly in less than six seconds. Manufacturer Blizzident uses the same scans dentists use to fit braces and an extremely precise 3D printer to create a brush for each individual customer. Each brush contains about 400 soft bristles and requires the wearer to grind their teeth in order to clean. Its makers say it eliminates brushing errors that people typically make, but experts say more research is needed. The technology comes at a price — a customer's first brush, which will last for a year, costs 299 euros ($405; £250). Subsequent brushes are cheaper, and old ones can be reconditioned for less than 100 euros, the company says. 'Because you are brushing all your teeth at the same time, you are brushing extremely quickly,' the company says. 'You brush all the difficult-to-reach and interdental regions without even having to think about it.'"
GregLaden writes "Last week Popular Science shut down comments on their web pages citing the damage being done to the public perception of science as their reason. Earlier research suggested this might be a good idea because trollish, negative comments can color the perception by readers of a news story. However, some have taken Popular Science's move to be anti-science, implying that science itself is positively affected by web and blog comments, as though these comments contributed to the science being done itself. Here, I take exception to this and suggest that while comments are important in relation to the public perception of science (which itself is important) blog and web commentary never, or only rarely, influences the process of scientific inquiry itself."
ananyo writes "A series of Martian craters assumed to have been formed by meteorites may actually be extinct volcanoes so massive that, when they were active billions of years ago, they could have buried Mars in ash. The craters pepper the surface of Arabia Terra, a geologically ancient region of northern Mars. They appear as several huge circular pits that resemble Earth's calderas, in which magma beneath a volcano drains after a volcanic eruption, causing the ground above the magma chamber to collapse. Using data from several satellites orbiting Mars, researchers mapped Eden patera in detail. In a report in Nature today (abstract), they describe three separate calderas within the depression, along with possible signs of a lake of solidified lava and a volcanic vent where lava could have oozed out."
KentuckyFC writes "Last month, NASA declared that Earth's most distant probe had finally left the Solar System. But the announcement may now turn out to be premature. It was prompted by a dramatic increase in the density of plasma in the region of space the spacecraft is now in. However, there has been no change in the local magnetic field, which is what astrophysicists would expect if Voyager had entered interstellar space. Instead, space scientists think the probe may be caught inside a magnetic portal known as an interstellar flux transfer event. This occurs when the magnetic fields from two different objects briefly become connected through a tube-like magnetic structure. This process happens between the Earth and Sun's magnetic field about every eight minutes, so similar events are expected between the Sun's field and the interstellar field. This magnetic tube would allow particles in from outside the Solar System, increasing the density of plasma, while maintaining the same magnetic field. If so, Voyager 1 hasn't yet left the Solar System after all."
Rambo Tribble writes "Frontiers in Plant Science has published research which suggests that angiosperms' origins are a lot older than we have thought; 100 million years older, in fact. This puts the roots of these plants in the Triassic, not the Cretaceous, as previously thought."
KentuckyFC writes "Stories are a powerful channel for communicating emotions. But while they have been studied in detail by generations of critics, there is little in the way of objective tools for analyzing and comparing their emotional content. That looks set to change thanks to one data mining researcher who has applied the process of sentiment analysis to novels and fairy tales that have been digitized on Project Gutenburg and the Google Books Corpus. The results show the density of emotions in different parts of a story and how the emotional 'temperature' changes throughout the tale. For example, this guy has used the technique to compare the emotional content of the entire collection of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales to reveal that the darkest story is a tale called Gambling Hansel; clearly a lesson to us all."
schliz writes "People aged over 65 make poorer financial decisions and more inconsistent choices than younger individuals with the same IQ, an international research group has found. The study (abstract) had 135 healthy participants aged 12-90 make a series of decisions: for example, choosing between gaining $5 and the chance to win $20 in a lottery. On average, over-65s earned 26-39% less than all other age groups, including adolescents — a finding that could partially explain their susceptibility to problem gambling and scams."
Ron024 writes "The Cassini probe has detected propene, or propylene, on Saturn's moon Titan. It is the first definitive detection of the plastic ingredient on any moon or planet, other than our home world, says the U.S. space agency (NASA). The discovery, made by Cassini's infrared spectrometer, is reported in Astrophysical Journal Letters [abstract]."
Despite the wrangling that's resulted in a government shut-down, Congress managed last week to agree on one thing: Helium. Reader gbrumfiel writes: "The U.S. holds vast helium reserves which it sells to scientists and private industry. According to NPR, a new law was needed to allow the helium to continue to flow. Congress passed it late last week, but only after a year-long lobbying effort and intense debate (and in the end, Senator Ted Cruz opposed the measure). Can a new bipartisanship rise out of this cooperation? Or will hot air prevail on Capitol Hill? (Insert your helium joke here.)" Apparently, helium is not yet so scarce that it's not available in balloons at the grocery store.
MTorrice writes "A new type of headphone heats up carbon nanotubes to crank out tunes. The tiny speaker doesn't rely on moving parts and instead produces sound through the thermoacoustic effect. When an alternating current passes through the nanotubes, the material heats and cools the air around it; as the air warms, it expands, and as it cools, it contracts. This expansion and contraction creates sound waves. The new nanotube speaker could be manufactured at low cost in the same facilities used to make computer chips, the researchers say." And it exists in the real world: "The Tsinghua researchers integrated these thermoacoustic chips into a pair of earbud headphones and connected them to a computer to play music from videos and sound files. They’ve used the headphones to play music for about a year without significant signs of wear, Yang says. According to him, this is the first thermoacoustic device to be integrated with commercial electronics and used to play music."
vinces99 writes "Chemists soon could be able to use a structured set of instructions to 'program' how DNA molecules interact in a test tube or cell. A team led by the University of Washington has developed a programming language for chemistry that it hopes will streamline efforts to design a network that can guide the behavior of chemical-reaction mixtures in the same way that embedded electronic controllers guide cars, robots and other devices. In medicine, such networks could serve as smart drug deliverers or disease detectors at the cellular level."
An anonymous reader writes "For many decades, we have been relying on fossil resources to produce liquid fuels such as gasoline, diesel, and many industrial and consumer chemicals for daily use. However, increasing strains on natural resources as well as environmental issues including global warming have triggered a strong interest in developing sustainable ways to obtain fuels and chemicals. A Korean research team led by Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) reported, for the first time, the development of a novel strategy for microbial gasoline production through metabolic engineering of E. coli."
An anonymous reader writes "CNN reports, "Sheikh Saleh Al-Loheidan's widely derided remarks have gone viral ... 'If a woman drives a car,' Al-Loheidan told Saudi news website sabq.org. 'it could have a negative physiological impact. It would automatically affect a woman's ovaries and that it pushes the pelvis upward.' ... 'We find that for women who continuously drive cars, their children are born with varying degrees of clinical problems.' The controversial comments were widely interpreted throughout Saudi Arabia as an attempt to discourage women in the country from joining a popular online movement urging them to stage a demonstration by driving cars on October 26. 'This is his answer to the campaign,' Saudi women's rights activist Aziza Yousef told CNN. 'He's making a fool of himself. He shouldn't touch this field at all.' Al-Loheidan's words have been ridiculed mercilessly via social media. An Arabic Twitter hashtag called '#WomensDrivingAffectsOvariesAndPelvises' was quickly created to make fun of Al-Loheidan — underscoring just how widely the call for Saudi women to defy the driving ban has resonated thus far. And while numerous conservative voices have supported Al-Loheidan, many Saudis believe this was an extremely clumsy way of trying to counter the popularity of the October 26 campaign.'"
AaronW writes "Scientists and engineers at the US DOE SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have developed an advanced accelerator technology smaller than a grain of rice. It is currently accelerating electrons at 300 million volts per meter with a goal of achieving 1 billion EV per meter. It could do in 100 feet what the SLAC linear accelerator does in two miles and could achieve a million more electron pulses per second. This could lead to more compact accelerators and X-ray devices."
An anonymous reader writes "SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket completed a successful first launch today, taking off from California and putting a Canadian science satellite in orbit. 'The beefed-up Falcon 9 that blasted off on its maiden flight from Southern California's Vandenberg Air Force Base, carrying a small Canadian government communication and research satellite, went through a seemingly picture-perfect countdown and performed on ascent as engineers hoped. The changes to the rocket are aimed at improving capacity and reliability, while simultaneously speeding up manufacturing. Historically, the initial launch of a new rocket has as much as a one-in-two chance of failure. Early this month, Elon Musk, the company's founder, chief executive and chief designer, seemingly tried to play down expectations by sending out a Twitter message emphasizing that the revamped rocket 'has a lot of new technology, so the probability of failure is significant.''"