hazeii writes "Einstein@home, the distributed computing project searching for the gravitational waves predicted to exist by Albert Einstein, looks set to breach the 1 Petaflops barrier around midnight UTC tonight. Put into context, if it was in the Top500 Supercomputers list, it would be in at number 24. I'm sure there are plenty of Slashdot readers who can contribute enough CPU and GPU cycles to push them well over 1,000 teraflops — and maybe even discover a pulsar in the process." From their forums: "At 14:45 we had 989.2 TFLOPS with an increase of 1.3 TFLOPS/h. In principle that's enough to reach 1001.1 TFLOPS at midnight (UTC) but very often, like yesterday, between 22:45 and 22:50 there occurs a drop of about 5 TFLOPS. So we will have very likely hit 1 PFLOPS in the early morning tomorrow. "
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Hugh Pickens writes writes "Alex Knapp reports that research by a team at the Rochester Medical Center suggests that exposure to the radiation of outer space could accelerate the onset of Alzheimer's disease in astronauts. 'Galactic cosmic radiation poses a significant threat to future astronauts... Exposure to ... equivalent to a mission to Mars could produce cognitive problems and speed up changes in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer's disease' says M. Kerry O'Banio. Researchers exposed mice with known timeframes for developing Alzheimer's to the type of low-level radiation that astronauts would be exposed to over time on a long space journey. The mice were then put through tests that measured their memory and cognitive ability and the mice exposed to radiation showed significant cognitive impairment. It's not going to be an easy problem to solve, either. The radiation the researchers used in their testing is composed of highly charged iron particles, which are relatively common in space. 'Because iron particles pack a bigger wallop it is extremely difficult from an engineering perspective to effectively shield against them,' says O'Banion. 'One would have to essentially wrap a spacecraft in a six-foot block of lead or concrete.'"
cylonlover writes "Robot hedgehogs on the moons of Mars may sound like the title of a B-grade sci-fi movie, but that is what Stanford University is working on. Marco Pavone, an assistant professor in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and his team are developing spherical robots called 'hedgehogs' that are about half a meter (1.6 ft) wide and covered in spikes to better cope with rolling and hopping across the surface of the Martian moon Phobos with its very low gravity."
Dexter Herbivore sends this quote from the Washington Post: "Scientists analyzing Australian rocks have discovered traces of bacteria that lived a record-breaking 3.49 billion years ago, a mere billion years after Earth formed. If the find withstands the scrutiny that inevitably faces claims of fossils this old, it could move scientists one step closer to understanding the first chapters of life on Earth. The discovery could also spur the search for ancient life on other planets. These traces of bacteria 'are the oldest fossils ever described. Those are our oldest ancestors,' said Nora Noffke, a biogeochemist at Old Dominion University in Norfolk who was part of the group that made the find and presented it last month at a meeting of the Geological Society of America."
An article at Space.com forecasts an important year for private space companies in 2013. SpaceX is working on a new version of its Dragon capsule that is quite different from the current model. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said that the first iteration looked similar to other space capsules because the SpaceX team was learning as they went. Now, they're drawing on the expertise they've gained to tailor the new capsule to their needs. "Musk described Dragon version 2 as having 'legs that pop out' and added that it uses parachutes and its eight SuperDraco thrusters for a 'propulsive landing.'" The capsule will hold up to seven people, and they hope to win a crew transportation contract for getting NASA astronauts up to the ISS. The bidding for that contract starts in the second half of 2013. Commercial space planes are also set to reach new heights in 2013. XCOR Aerospace will be building its Lynx I rocket plane, and a spokesman said, "we’ll be doing test fights throughout the year from early 2013 and then go into commercial flights." Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo will also undergo its first rocket-powered flight this year.
An anonymous reader sends word that the Russian Space industry will be getting a big boost over the next eight years. Prime Minister Medvedev has approved $68.71 billion in space-related funding from 2013 to 2020. That's a huge increase from the $3.3 billion spent annually in 2010 and 2011. The increased funding is one of several efforts to restoring Russia's slowly fading spaceflight capabilities. "The failure of a workhorse Proton rocket after launch in August caused the multimillion-dollar loss of an Indonesian and a Russian satellite. A similar problem caused the loss of a $265 million communications satellite last year. Medvedev criticized the state of the industry in August, saying problems were costing Russia prestige and money." Medvedev said, "The program will enable our country to effectively participate in forward-looking projects, such as the International Space Station, the study of the Moon, Mars and other celestial bodies in the solar system."
EagleHasLanded writes "The U.S. Metric Association has been advocating for metrication since 1916 – without much success. In the mid-1970s, the U.S. government passed the Metric Conversion Act, but now it seems the time for complete conversion has come and gone. Or could U.S. educators and health & safety advocates put this issue back on Congress' radar screen?"
MarkWhittington writes "With the National Research Council report that concluded that President Obama's plan for a mission to an asteroid has no support, either inside NASA or anywhere else, the space agency faces a decision point in 2013. The NRC suggested that the administration, Congress, NASA, and other stakeholders in space exploration come to a consensus behind a new goal. But the space agency's problems run deep, caused by a lack of direction, a lack of leadership, and a lack of funding."
An anonymous reader writes "Pandas have long been the face of conservation efforts by environmental activists, but a recent finding may boost even further the need for pandas to evade extinction. Researchers have discovered a powerful antibody in panda blood that could serve as the next frontier in the fight against increasingly prevalent superbugs. The compound is called cathelicin-AM. Discovered when researchers analyzed the creatures' DNA, it has been found to kill fungus and bacteria. It is believed that the antibiotic is released to protect the animal from infections in the wild and, in studies, it has been found to kill both standard and drug-resistant strains of microbes and fungi. The compound also worked extremely quickly, killing off strains of bacteria in just an hour, while conventional antibiotics needed six."
SternisheFan writes "Nobel winner Dr. Rita Levi-Montalcini, who discovered chemical tools that the body uses to direct cell growth and build nerves, has died. She was 103. From the article: 'Dr. Rita Levi-Montalcini, a Nobel Prize-winning neurologist who discovered critical chemical tools that the body uses to direct cell growth and build nerve networks, opening the way for the study of how those processes can go wrong in diseases like dementia and cancer, died on Sunday at her home in Rome. She was 103. Her death was announced by Mayor Gianni Alemanno of Rome. "I don't use these words easily, but her work revolutionized the study of neural development, from how we think about it to how we intervene," said Dr. Gerald D. Fishbach, a neuroscientist and professor emeritus at Columbia. Scientists had virtually no idea how embryo cells built a latticework of intricate connections to other cells when Dr. Levi-Montalcini began studying chicken embryos in the bedroom of her house in Turin, Italy, during World War II. After years of obsessive study, much of it at Washington University in St. Louis with Dr. Viktor Hamburger, she found a protein that, when released by cells, attracted nerve growth from nearby developing cells.'"
skade88 writes "Launched in 1997, Cassini has taken over 300,000 pictures of Saturn since it started orbiting the planet and the mission is due to run through 2017. NASA has released some new photos including: Saturn's rings, clouds, Saturn's moon Janus, and the shadow of another one of Saturn's moons Mimas."
An anonymous reader writes "It's after Christmas, so what do you do with your Christmas tree? Turn it into a missile, of course! From the creators of 'Christmas Tree Rocketry: The Art and Science of Holiday Recycling' (video) comes a new epic: the flight of the XMS MissileToe."
SchrodingerZ writes "In an upcoming BBC Documentary, Dean Armstrong, the brother of astronaut Neil Armstrong, reveals when the world famous 'one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind' line originated. For years, people have argued over when Armstrong came up with the line, whether it was on the spot or planned years ahead. Also debated is whether Armstrong meant to include 'a' before man, making the indefinite article 'man,' which alludes to mankind, into a singular, 'a man,' himself. According to Dean Armstrong, the quote was shared to him over a board game, months before the mission began. He says, 'We started playing Risk and then he [Neil] slipped me a piece of paper and said "read that." I did. On that piece of paper there was "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." He says "what do you think about that?" I said "fabulous." He said "I thought you might like that, but I wanted you to read it." He then added: "It was 'that is one small step for A man.'"' Armstrong had always insisted that he had said 'a,' that it was lost in communication static. This new story however conflicts with what Neil told James Hansen for his biography, stating he came up with the quote on the lunar surface. More on the historic moon landing and the life of Neil Armstrong in the new documentary Neil Armstrong- First Man on the Moon, on BBC."
kkleiner writes "A small handful of doctors in China are using a highly controversial procedure to rid people of drug addiction by destroying a part of patients' brains. The procedure involves drilling small holes into the skulls of patients and inserting long electrodes that destroy a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens. This area, often referred to as the "pleasure center" of the brain, is the major nucleus of the brain's reward circuit. Is it worth being cured of addiction if, losing the addiction, we also lose part of who we are?" The practice has been officially banned, but apparently continues nonetheless.
Earth-like exoplanets have gotten a lot of attention in the last few years; it's exciting to think that there's life — or even just life-sustaining conditions — on planets other than Earth, whether near by (on Mars) or much farther away (orbiting Vega). Projects like NASA's Kepler, and the ground-based HARPS, attempt to spot planets outside our solar system of all kinds. These exoplanet discoveries have been ramping up lately, and so has sorting of the discovered planets by size and other characteristics; the odds are looking good, say astronomers quoted by Space.com, that an Earth-like planet will be found this year. Abel Mendez runs the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo, and UC Berkeley astromer Geoff Marcy looks for planets as part of the Kepler team; they explain in the article why they think 2013 is an auspicious one for planet hunters.