coondoggie writes with an update on the Mars Science Laboratory. From the article: "Even as it hurtles towards an August 5 rendezvous with the red planet, NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) is being fine-tuned for a more precise landing and better operations once it reaches its destination. NASA today gave a status report for the MSL which was launched November 2011, and is still over 17.5 million kilometers away from Mars. Of major interest today was the fact NASA said it has narrowed landing target for the Mars rover, Curiosity letting it touch down closer to its ultimate destination for science operations, but also closer to the foot of a mountain slope that poses a landing hazard, the agency said." From NASA: "The larger ellipse, 12.4 miles (20 kilometers) by 15.5 miles (25 kilometers) was already smaller than the landing target area for any previous Mars mission, due to this mission's techniques for improved landing precision. Continuing analysis after the Nov. 26, 2011, launch resulted in confidence in landing within an even smaller area [handy diagram], about 12 miles by 4 miles (20 by 7 kilometers). Using the smaller ellipse, the Mars Science Laboratory Project also moved the center of the target closer to the mountain, which holds geological layers that are the prime destination for the rover. ... 'We're trimming the distance we'll have to drive after landing by almost half,' said Pete Theisinger, Mars Science Laboratory project manager ... 'That could get us to the mountain months earlier.'"
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First time accepted submitter TWToxicity writes "NuSTAR is to be launched from a Pegasus XL rocket carried by an Orbital Science Corp. L-1011 "Stargazer" plane. It will orbit at 550 km above Earth's surface. A week after launch, NuSTAR will deploy its 10 meter boom, which allows the telescope to focus X-rays and capture images that will help scientists survey black holes in other galaxies, study the black hole at the heart of the Milky Way, and study supernovae to discover how atomic elements are formed."
An anonymous reader writes "When a floating dock the size of a boxcar washed up on a sandy beach in Oregon, beachcombers got excited because it was the largest piece of debris from last year's tsunami in Japan to show up on the West Coast. But scientists worried it represented a whole new way for invasive species of seaweed, crabs and other marine organisms to break the earth's natural barriers and further muck up the West Coast's marine environments. And more invasive species could be hitching rides on tsunami debris expected to arrive in the weeks and months to come."
ChromeAeonium writes "Shortly after the events in Rothamsted Research in the UK, where a publicly funded trial of wheat genetically engineered to repel aphids was threatened by activists with destruction and required police protection, another publicly funded experiment involving genetically engineered crops faces possible destruction (original in Italian). The trial, which is being conducted by researchers at the University of Tuscia in Italy on cherries, olives, and kiwis genetically engineered to have traits such as fungal disease resistance, started three decades ago. When field research of GE plants was banned in Italy in 2002, the trial received an extension to avoid being declared illegal, but was denied another in 2008, and following a complaint from the Genetic Rights Foundation, now faces destruction on June 12th, despite appeals from scientists. The researchers claim that the destruction is scientifically unjustifiable (only the male kiwis produce transgenic pollen and their flowers are removed) and wish to gather more information from the long running experiment."
MarkWhittington writes "While the official target of NASA's space exploration program remains exploring Earth approaching asteroids, the case for a return to the moon has been made from a variety of quarters. The most recent attempt to make a case for the moon is in a paper, titled Back to the Moon: The Scientific Rationale for Resuming Lunar Surface Exploration, soon to be published in the journal Planetary and Space Science."
A University of Colorado-Boulder team has uncovered extremophile microbes in the rocky, high-altitude Atacama desert on the Chile-Argentina border "which seem to have a different way of converting energy than their cousins elsewhere in the world." According to the researchers, "[T]hese are very different than anything else that has been cultured. Genetically, they’re at least 5 percent different than anything else in the DNA database of 2.5 million sequences." It's an exciting frontier for biologists in part because of the recurring interest in the possibility that life has existed (or does exist) on Mars; the dry, volcanic Atacama is often compared to the Martian surface.
New submitter nagalman writes "There is a very powerful video out that takes the audio of words from Neil deGrasse Tyson, receiver of the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, and meshes it with powerful images of the history and successful outcomes of NASA. Through Penny4NASA, Dr. Tyson is pressing for the budget of NASA to be doubled from 0.5% to 1% of the federal budget in order to spur vision, interest, dreams, public excitement, and innovation into science and engineering. With Kansas stating that 'evolution could not rule out a supernatural or theistic source, that evolution itself was not fact but only a theory and one in crisis, and that Intelligent Design must be considered a viable alternative to evolution,' and North Carolina's legislature circulating a bill telling people to ignore climate science, maybe it's time we start listening to experts who have a proven record of success, rather than ideology that has only been 'proven' in the mind of elected politicians."
jamstar7 writes "From an Associated Press report: 'China will launch three astronauts this month to dock with an orbiting experimental module, and the crew might include its first female space traveler, a government news agency said Saturday. A rocket carrying the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft was moved to a launch pad in China's desert northwest on Saturday for the mid-June flight, the Xinhua News Agency said, citing an space program spokesman. The three-member crew will dock with and live in the Tiangong 1 orbital module launched last year, Xinhua said. The government has not said how long the mission will last.' China, who is not an ISS partner, plans to see if its Shenzhou 9/Long March 2F system can get the job done like the Dragon/Falcon9 system can. They plan on two missions this year to dock with their Tiangong 1 module, which was launched in September 2011. Their eventual plans include building a complete space station by 2020, though one of only about 60 tons, compared to the ISS's 450-ish tons."
astroengine writes "Forget simply detecting a slight 'dip' in brightness as an exoplanet transits in front of its star; soon we'll be able to image the event. What's more, by doing this we'll see that exoplanetary transits look exactly like the historic Venus transit that wowed the world on Tuesday. This is according to astronomer Gerard van Belle, of Lowell Observatory near Flagstaff, Ariz., who hopes to use an interferometer to carry out the mind-blowing goal of capturing the silhouettes of exoplanets drifting in front of distant stars. But that's not all: this whole effort may help us track down the first bona fide Earth-like alien world." In case you missed it, NASA posted a bunch of great footage and pictures of the Venus transit, as did Boston.com's The Big Picture. Phil Plait pointed out a cool shot from Thierry Legault of a transit during a transit.
carmendrahl writes "The peacock mantis shrimp, a crustacean which is neither a mantis nor a shrimp, has hammer-like clubs for smashing the shells of its prey. They're so strong that regular glass aquariums can't hold them. But what's interested researchers for some time is how the clubs stand up to all that stress. Now, a team has figured out why: the mantis shrimp club's molecular structure is set up to resist fractures. That discovery could lead to stronger and lighter car frames or body armor."
ananyo writes "Scientists have reported the first tabletop source of ultra-short, laser-like pulses of low energy, or 'soft,' X-rays. The light, capable of probing the structure and dynamics of molecules (abstract), was previously available only at large, billion-dollar national facilities such as synchrotrons or free-electron lasers, where competition for use of the equipment is fierce. The new device, by husband-and-wife team Margaret Murnane and Henry Kapteyn based at JILA in Boulder, Colorado, might soon lie within the grasp of a university laboratory budget — perhaps allowing them to one day be as common in labs as electron microscopes are."
stevegee58 writes "After 25 years on the air, Tom and Ray Magliozzi (aka Click and Clack, The Tappet Brothers) are calling it quits in September. With their nerdy humor, explosive laughter and geek cred (both MIT alums) Tom and Ray will be sorely missed by the average NPR-listening Slashdotter." How many garages have names as cool as "Hacker's Haven"? I've long thought that someone should assemble a compilation featuring nothing but hours of their laughter. (Which will be available for sampling, since they will continue to play archived material for a long time yet.)
New submitter NervousWreck writes "Physicists report that tidal conditions are affecting the hardware at the LHC. 'This effect has been known since the LEP days, the Large Electron Positron collider, the LHC predecessor. The LHC reuses the same circular tunnel as LEP. Twenty some years ago, it then came as a surprise that, given the 27 km circumference of the accelerator, the gravitational force exerted by the moon on one side is not the same as the one felt at the opposite side, creating a small distortion of the tunnel. Since the moon’s effect is very small, only large bodies like oceans feel its effect in the form of tides. But the LHC is such a sensitive apparatus, it can detect the minute deformations created by the small differences in the gravitational force across its diameter.'"
Hugh Pickens writes "Voters in Richmond, California are set to decide in November whether to make the Bay Area city the nation's first municipality to tax soda and other sugary beverages to help fight childhood obesity. The penny-per-ounce tax, projected to raise between $2 million and $8 million, would go to soccer fields, school gardens and programs to treat diabetes and fight obesity. Councilman Jeff Ritterman, a doctor who proposed the measure, says soda is a prime culprit behind high childhood obesity rates in Richmond, where nearly 20 percent of residents live below the poverty line. 'If you look at where most of our added sugar is coming, it's coming from the sugar-sweetened beverages,' says Ritterman. 'It's actually a poison for you, because your liver can't handle that huge amount of fructose.' Not everyone is pleased by the proposed license fee on businesses selling sweetened drinks. It would require owners of bodegas, theaters, convenience stores and other outlets to tally ounces sold and, presumably, pass the cost on to customers. Soda taxes have failed elsewhere — most notably in Philadelphia, where Mayor Michael A. Nutter's attempts to impose a 2-cents-per-ounce charge on sugary drinks have sputtered twice. However, Dr. Bibbins-Domingo says similar taxes on cigarettes have had a dramatic effect on public health. 'It was a few decades ago when we had high rates of tobacco and we had high rates of tobacco-related illnesses. Those measures really turned the tide and really led to lower rates of tobacco across the country.'"
An anonymous reader writes with news of a presentation from CERN Research Director Sergio Bertolucci about follow-up experiments trying to repeat the faster-than-light neutrino results from last year. Quoting the press release: "The four [experiments], Borexino, ICARUS, LVD and OPERA all measure a neutrino time of flight consistent with the speed of light. This is at odds with a measurement that the OPERA collaboration put up for scrutiny last September, indicating that the original OPERA measurement can be attributed to a faulty element of the experiment's fibre optic timing system. 'Although this result isn't as exciting as some would have liked,' said Bertolucci, 'it is what we all expected deep down. The story captured the public imagination, and has given people the opportunity to see the scientific method in action – an unexpected result was put up for scrutiny, thoroughly investigated and resolved in part thanks to collaboration between normally competing experiments. That's how science moves forward.'"