ZeroExistenZ writes "NASA plans to make another trip to Mars in 2018 for which they want to devise a plan by this summer. To come up with ideas for this mission, they turn to the public to tackle a few challenge areas. Participants must submit a brief abstract (no more than two pages) outlining the idea, and indicating in which of the topical areas the idea belongs. Abstracts are due no later than 5:00 p.m. U.S. Central Daylight Time May 10, 2012."
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First time accepted submitter jcho5 writes "China's 600-year-old Forbidden City is looking less forbidding these days. As part of a major restoration, the Chinese Palace museum will use 3D-Printers to re-manufacture and replicate many of the city's most precious and unique objects. From the article: 'PhD student Fangjin Zhang—along with her colleagues at Loughborough Design School in the East Midlands of England—had, for a number of years, been looking into the use of 3D printing as means to restore sculptures and archaeological relics. According to a Loughborough press release, Zhang developed a “formalized approach tailored specifically to the restoration of historic artifacts.” After reviewing Zhang’s techniques, the Palace Museum then invited Loughborough researchers to repair several Forbidden City artifacts, including the ceiling and enclosure of a pavilion in the Emperor Chanlong Garden.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Expanding on previous research providing proof-of-principle that human stem cells can be genetically engineered into HIV-fighting cells, a team of UCLA researchers have now demonstrated that these cells can actually attack HIV-infected cells in a living organism. From the article: 'This most recent study shows that scientists can manipulate stem cells — immature cells that can develop into any type of cell — by implanting genes, turning it into killer T cells which can kill the virus in living mice. While the mouse form of HIV is not exactly the same as it is in humans, the infection and progression closely mimic the virus in humans, and eliminating it is a huge step forward, researchers said.'"
mikejuk writes "You can build a computer out of all sorts of things — mechanical components, vacuum tubes, transistors, fluids and ... crabs. Researchers at Kobe University in Japan have discovered that soldier crabs have behaviors suitable for implementing simple logic and hence — with enough crabs — you can achieve a complete computer. The Soldier crab Mictyris guinotae has a swarming behavior that is just right for simple logic gates (PDF). When two crab swarms collide they fuse to make a single swarm — and this is enough to build an OR gate."
Zothecula writes "Crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter have proven popular for groups and individuals looking to get a consumer product, movie, music or video game project off the ground. Now a group of researchers and scientists is adopting a similar crowd-funding model to raise money for scientific research projects. The Microryza website, which launched this week, lets the public get behind research they care about and maybe help it get out of the lab."
cowtamer writes "CNN has a writeup on a method of treating depression with implanted electrodes. If this works, we may be seeing a lot more of this type of technology in the future. '[The patients] were lightly sedated when the holes were drilled and the electrodes implanted, but they were awake to describe what they experienced. Several patients reported profound changes just minutes after the stimulator was turned on. One said the room suddenly seemed brighter and colors were more intense. Another described heightened feelings of connectedness and a disappearance of the void.' While I haven't looked into any of the academic literature on this, it seems that yet another Larry Niven Prediction has come true!"
New submitter HeLLFiRe1151 sends this quote from Physics Central: "Here's a practical application for your physics education: using math to successfully beat a traffic ticket in court. Dmitri Krioukov, a physicist based at the University of California San Diego, did just that to avoid paying a fee for (purportedly) running a stop sign. Krioukov not only proved his innocence, but he also posted a paper detailing his argument online (PDF) on the arXiv server."
HairyNevus writes "An international team of scientists used satellite technology to conduct a census of emperor penguin populations from outer space. Honing in on their colonies by looking for the brown patches of penguin guano that stand out in the snowy antarctic, high resolution images were taken and used to count the total number of emperor penguin species on the continent. The result was a census of 595,000 penguins, almost double the previous estimates of 270,000-350,000 emperors. This includes seven new colonies which had not been previously identified. Although this is uplifting data, computer modeling still shows that loss of ice flows in the northern reaches could result in problems for the penguins."
Hugh Pickens writes "Dr. James Hansen, director of the NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who first made warnings about climate change in the 1980s, says that public skepticism about the threat of man-made climate change has increased despite the growing scientific consensus. He says that without public support, it will be impossible to make the changes he and his colleagues believe need to occur to protect future generations from the effects of climate change. 'The science has become stronger and stronger over the past five years while the public perception is has gone in completely the other direction. That is not an accident,' says Hansen. 'There is a very concerted effort by people who would prefer to see business to continue as usual. They have been winning the public debate with the help of tremendous resources.' Hansen's comments come as recent surveys have revealed that public support for tackling climate change has declined dramatically in recent years. A recent BBC poll found that 25% of British adults did not think global warming is happening and over a third said many claims about environmental threats are 'exaggerated,' compared to 24 per cent in 2000. Dr. Benny Peiser, director of skeptical think tank The Global Warming Policy Foundation, says it's time to stop exaggerating the impact of global warming and accept the uncertainty of predictions about the rate of climate change. 'James Hensen has been making predictions about climate change since the 1980s. When people are comparing what is happening now to those predictions, they can see they fail to match up.'"
MatthewVD writes "Some time in the next decade, the Voyager probes will run out of juice and finally go silent after almost a half century of exploration. John Rennie writes that the lack of any meaningful effort to follow up with a mission to interstellar space shows the "fragile, inconsistent state of space exploration." It's particularly frustrating since the Voyagers have tantalized astronomers with a glimpse into about how the sun's magnetic field protects us from (or exposes us to) cosmic rays. Have we gone as far as we're willing to go in space?"
Hugh Pickens writes "Natalie Wolchover says even the most die-hard skeptics among us believe in magic. Humans can't help it: though we try to be logical, irrational beliefs — many of which we aren't even conscious of — are hardwired in our psyches. 'The unavoidable habits of mind that make us think luck and supernatural forces are real, that objects and symbols have power, and that humans have souls and destinies are part of what has made our species so evolutionarily successful,' writes Wolchover. 'Believing in magic is good for us.' For example, what do religion, anthropomorphism, mysticism and the widespread notion that each of us has a destiny to fulfill have in common? According to research by Matthew Hutson, underlying all these forms of magical thinking is the innate sense that everything happens for a reason. And that stems from paranoia, which is a safety mechanism that protects us. 'We have a bias to see events as intentional, and to see objects as intentionally designed,' says Hutson. 'If we don't see any biological agent, like a person or animal, then we might assume that there's some sort of invisible agent: God or the universe in general with a mind of its own.' According to anthropologists, the reason we have a bias to assume things are intentional is that typically it's safer to spot another agent in your environment than to miss another agent. 'It's better to mistake a boulder for a bear than a bear for a boulder,' says Stewart Guthrie. In a recent Gallup poll, three in four Americans admitted to believing in at least one paranormal phenomenon. 'But even for those few of us who claim to be complete skeptics, belief quietly sneaks in. Maybe you feel anxious on Friday the 13th. Maybe the idea of a heart transplant from a convicted killer weirds you out. ... If so, on some level you believe in magic.'"
astroengine writes "Astronomers believe they have found a second distant planet around Fomalhaut, a bright young neighbor star, and that the far-out world — like its sister planet — is shepherding and shaping the star's ring of dust. If confirmed, theorists have some work to do explaining how the planet, believed to be a few times bigger than Mars, ended up 155 times as far away from its parent star as Earth is to the sun. 'We're learning a lot about planets that are close to their stars, but that is not the full picture. We also want to know about systems where planets are very far out. By considering near-, far- and mid-range, we can get a complete picture of planet formation,' University of Florida astronomer Aaron Boley said." There was another fascinating bit of news about Fomalhaut a few days ago: "ESA’s Herschel Space Observatory has studied the dusty belt around the nearby star Fomalhaut. The dust appears to be coming from collisions that destroy up to thousands of icy comets every day."
New submitter cb_is_cool writes "From the Beeb: 'The Pentagon has put in an order for prototype contact lenses that give users a much wider field of vision. The lenses are designed to be paired with compact heads up display units — glasses that allow images to be projected onto their lenses.' Hopefully, any mugger within 50 yards will have a red status bar above his head. 'The central part of each lens sends light from the HUD towards the middle of the pupil, while the outer part sends light from the surrounding environment to the pupil's rim. The retina receives each image in focus, at the same time."
New submitter boner writes "In a follow-up to an earlier Slashdot story, scientists at the Technical University of Delft in the Netherlands yesterday published their findings that they have indeed found the Majorana particle. The announcement on the university website provides both a summary of the academic paper (PDF) and background of this groundbreaking discovery. Quoting: 'Majorana fermions are very interesting – not only because their discovery opens up a new and uncharted chapter of fundamental physics; they may also play a role in cosmology. A proposed theory assumes that the mysterious ‘dark matter, which forms the greatest part of the universe, is composed of Majorana fermions. Furthermore, scientists view the particles as fundamental building blocks for the quantum computer.'"
tqft writes "What the world needs is more truly random sources of numbers. Researchers from Australian National University have found a brilliant way to make one: 'We do this by splitting a beam of light into two beams and then measuring the power in each beam. Because light is quantised, the light intensity in each beam fluctuates about the mean. Those fluctuations, due ultimately to the quantum vacuum, can be converted into a source of random numbers. Every number is randomly generated in real time and cannot be predicted beforehand.' So if you need some really random numbers, just use their generator service."