SpaceX's Dragon capsule, loaded with food and scientific gear, is scheduled to launch toward the ISS tomorrow evening (with backup launch slots on each of the following two days). There's a last-minute wrinkle, though: Space.com managing editor Tariq Malik reports that a piece of space debris "will pass near enough to the space station on Monday morning (Oct. 8) to require an avoidance maneuver as a safety precaution, NASA space station program manager Mike Suffredini said in a briefing [Saturday]." Tomorrow's planned flight is to be the first under a $1.6 billion contract with NASA that calls for a dozen resupply flights by SpaceX, essential in the post-shuttle era."
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First time accepted submitter badford writes "Representative Paul Broun (Georgia Republican) said that evolution, embryology and the Big Bang theory are 'lies straight from the pit of hell' meant to convince people that they do not need a savior. It would not be quite as shocking if Broun did not sit on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. What impact could this have on policy? What impact could this have on STEM education not just in Georgia but all over the U.S.?"
RocketAcademy writes "While all eyes were focused on SpaceX, which is preparing for another launch to the International Space Station, Virgin Galactic quietly put out a press release. Virgin Galactic has acquired full ownership of The SpaceShip Company, which will build production versions of SpaceShip Two. Ownership was previously shared with Scaled Composites, which built SpaceShip One and is building the SpaceShip Two prototype. There have been rumors of strained relations between Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites. This news, which was not announced until after the close of business Friday, raises some interesting questions about Virgin's relationship with Scaled and its plans for the future."
Penurious Penguin writes "On October 2, City Commissioners of Delray Beach finalized a policy which prohibits agencies from hiring employees who use tobacco products. Delray Beach isn't alone though; other Florida cities such as Hollywood and Hallandale Beach, require prospective employees to sign affidavits declaring themselves tobacco-free for 12 months prior to the date of application. Throughout the states, both government and businesses are moving to ban tobacco-use beyond working hours. Many medical facilities, e.g. hospitals, have implemented or intend to implement similar policies. In some more-aggressive environments referred to as nicotine-free, employee urine-samples can be taken and tested for any presence of nicotine, not excluding that from gum or patches. Employees testing positive can be terminated. Times do change, and adaptation is often a necessary burden. But have they changed so much that we'd now postpone the Manhattan project for 12 months because Oppenheimer had toked his pipe? Would we confine our vision to the Milky Way or snub the 1373 Cincinnati because Hubble smoked his? Would we shun relativity, or shelve the works of Tolkien because he and C. S. Lewis had done the same? If so, then where will it stop?"
cervesaebraciator writes "A new species of heterodontosaur, called Pegomastax, has been identified. Paul Sereno, a University of Chicago paleontologist, published a description of this species in a recent issue of ZooKeys. Although this diminutive (60 cm or less) species was herbivorous, it also possessed a set of sharp, stabbing canines in its parrot-shaped beak. Dr. Sereno holds that these canines where likely 'for nipping and defending themselves, not for eating meat.' Perhaps the most imaginatively intriguing aspect of all, the body of the Pegomastix might have been covered in porcupine-like quills, making for perhaps the least attractive dinosaur of all time. You can almost hear Dieter Stark screaming 'Helvetes jävlar!'"
derekmead writes "Billions worldwide still don't have access to proper sanitation, and those that do still require a ton of water and electricity to keep waste flowing. A French company is offering one solution: Use turd-eating worms to compost waste right at the source. Ecosphere Technologies has developed an outhouse that, rather than relying on chemicals like a port-a-john, relies on about a pound of red wiggler worms. A new installation in Quebec uses imported worms, placed inside of a mixture of dung and straw underneath to toilet, to devour feces delivered to them by a conveyor belt system. (When someone uses the toilet, pee filters through sand to wash away, while a pedal allows the user to transport their poo to the worm space.) The whole system uses no water or electricity, and a series of passive vents allegedly keeps the toilet smelling great. The company claims it can be used 10,000 times without servicing, which is far better than what a port-a-potty can boast, although with a current price tag of $40k for the worm system, port-a-potties are still a lot cheaper."
An anonymous reader tips a piece by Jason Torchinsky at Jalopnik, who attended the California Science Center's press conference about moving Space Shuttle Endeavour through Los Angeles to its final resting place. While he was there, he noticed that security for the event was focused less on the shuttle than on keeping the city itself safe. So, after a helpful LAPD officer suggested it would be impossible for a supervillain to make off with OV-105, Torchinsky went ahead and made a plan to do just that. All he needs is a submarine, a score of Sikorsky CH-53E heavy-lift helicopters, a salvaged and disguised Buran spaceplane, and the assistance of Switzerland.
cylonlover writes "Boeing has filed a patent application for a method of disposing of dead satellites and other debris orbiting the earth by hitting them with a puff of gas. The method, which is still at the conceptual stage, is designed to slow down satellites, forcing them to re-enter the atmosphere without sending up more space junk that itself will need disposing of. The idea is to send a small satellite into orbit containing a gas generator. This generator can be a tank of cryogenic gas, such as xenon or krypton, or a device designed to vaporize a heavy metal or some relatively heavy elements like fluorine, chlorine, bromine, or iodine. This gas would be released as a cloud in the same orbit as the debris, but traveling in the opposite direction." Clever of them to patent this, since knock-off space-junk removal systems are in such high demand.
Hugh Pickens writes "An article by Ross Andersen makes note of Freeman Dyson's prediction in 1960 that every civilization in the Universe eventually runs out of energy on its home planet, a major hurdle in a civilization's evolution. Dyson argued that all those who leap over it do so in precisely the same way: they build a massive collector of starlight, a shell of solar panels to surround their home star. Last month astronomers began a two-year search for Dyson Spheres, a search that will span the Milky Way, along with millions of other galaxies. The search is funded by a sizable grant from the Templeton Foundation, a philanthropic organization that funds research on the 'big questions' that face humanity, questions relating to 'human purpose and ultimate reality.' Compared with SETI, a search for Dyson Spheres assumes that the larger the civilization, the more energy it uses and the more heat it re-radiates. If Dyson Spheres exist, they promise to give off a very particular kind of heat signature, a signature that we should be able to see through our infrared telescopes. 'A Dyson Sphere would appear very bright in the mid-infrared,' says project leader Jason Wright. 'Just like your body, which is invisible in the dark, but shines brightly in mid-infrared goggles.' A civilization that built a Dyson Sphere would have to go to great lengths to avoid detection, building massive radiators that give off heat so cool it would be undetectable, a solution that would involve building a sphere that was a hundred times larger than necessary. 'If a civilization wants to hide, it's certainly possible to hide,' says Wright, 'but it requires massive amounts of deliberate engineering across an entire civilization.'"
ananyo writes "Japanese researchers have coaxed mouse stem cells into becoming viable eggs that produce healthy offspring. Last year, the same team successfully used mouse stem cells to make functional sperm (other groups have produced sperm cells in vitro). The researchers used a cocktail of growth factors to transform stem cells into egg precursors. When they added these egg precursor cells to embryonic ovary tissue that did not contain sex cells, the mixture spontaneously formed ovary-like structures, which they then grafted onto natural ovaries in female mice. After four weeks, the stem-cell-derived cells had matured into oocytes. The team removed the oocytes from the ovaries, fertilized them and transplanted the embryos into foster mothers. The offspring that were produced grew up to be fertile themselves."
cylonlover writes "NASA launched a strategic partnership with location-based social networking site foursquare in 2010 with the first-ever check-in from the International Space Station (ISS) by astronaut Doug Wheelock. Now the space agency has gone one better with the first check-in on another planet thanks to its Curiosity Mars rover. Since fellow foursquare users will have a hard time checking in on the Red Planet themselves, they'll instead be able to earn a Curiosity-themed badge for visiting locations relating to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The badge will be available later this year and is designed to spark the scientific curiosity of foursquare users by encouraging them to visit science centers, laboratories and museums."
assertation writes "A few weeks ago an article was posted to Slashdot referring to a Stanford Study stating that organic produce, contrary to popular belief is not more nutritious. According to Mark Bitman of The New York times the Stanford study was flawed. A spelling error skewed the results as well as the study ignoring several types of nutrients."
The Bad Astronomer writes "A century ago, astronomers (including Edwin Hubble) discovered the Universe was expanding. Using the same methods — but this time with observations from an orbiting infrared space telescope — a new study confirms this expansion, and nails the rate with higher precision than done before. If you're curious, the expansion rate found was 74.3 +/- 2.1 kilometers per second per megaparsec — almost precisely in line with previous measurements."
dsinc writes "A new study suggests caffeinated coffee drinkers should limit their intake to reduce their chances of developing vision loss or blindness. According to a scientific paper in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, heavy caffeinated coffee consumption is associated with an increased risk of developing exfoliation glaucoma (abstract), the leading cause of secondary glaucoma worldwide. 'Scandinavian populations have the highest frequencies of exfoliation syndrome and glaucoma,' said author Jae Hee Kang, ScD, of Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Mass. 'Because Scandinavian populations also have the highest consumption of caffeinated coffee in the world, and our research group has previously found that greater caffeinated coffee intake was associated with increased risk of primary open-angle glaucoma, we conducted this study to evaluate whether the risk of exfoliation glaucoma or glaucoma suspect may be different by coffee consumption.'"
Lucas123 writes "The problem: What do you leave behind that billions of years from now, and without context, would give aliens an some kind of accurate depiction of mankind. The answer: A gold-plated silicon disc with just 100 photos. That's the idea behind The Last Pictures project, which is scheduled to blast off in the next few months from Kazakhstan and orbit the earth for 5 billion years. The photos, etched into the silicon using a bitmap format, were chosen over a five-year process that involved interviews with artists, philosophers, and MIT scientists, who included biologists, physicists, and astronomers. To each, was posed a single question: What photos would you choose to send into outer space? The answer became an eclectic mix of images from pre-historic cave paintings to a photo of a group of people taken by a predator drone."
First time accepted submitter Walking The Walk writes "Your co-workers who keep using Schrödinger's cat metaphor may need to find a new one. New Scientist reports that 'by making constant but weak measurements of a quantum system, physicists have managed to probe a delicate quantum state without destroying it – the equivalent of taking a peek at Schrodinger's metaphorical cat without killing it. The result should make it easier to handle systems such as quantum computers that exploit the exotic properties of the quantum world.'"
RocketAcademy writes "ABC News is reporting that Phantom of the Opera singer/actress Sarah Brightman outbid NASA for a seat on a Soyuz flight to the International Space Station. Brightman reportedly paid more than $51 million. If that story is true, there may be some interesting bidding wars in the future."
New submitter CelestialScience writes "The heavens have aligned in a way never seen before, with two exoplanets overlapping as they cross their star. Teruyuki Hirano of the University of Tokyo, Japan, and colleagues used data from the Kepler space telescope to probe KOI-94, a star seemingly orbited by four planets. It seems that one planet candidate, KOI-94.03, passed in front of the star and then the innermost candidate, KOI-94.01, passed between the two. The phenomenon is so new it doesn't yet have a name, though suggestions include 'planet-planet eclipse,' 'double transit,' 'syzygy' and 'exosyzygy.'"
eldavojohn writes "A recent peer reviewed paper and survey by Cliff Frohlich of the University of Texas' Institute for Geophysics reveals a correlation between an increase in earthquakes and the emergence of fracking sites in the Barnett Shale, Texas. To clarify, it is not the actual act of hydrofracking that induces earthquakes, but more likely the final process of injecting wastewater into the site, according to Oliver Boyd, a USGS seismologist. Boyd said, 'Most, if not all, geophysicists expect induced earthquakes to be more likely from wastewater injection rather than hydrofracking. This is because the wastewater injection tends to occur at greater depth, where earthquakes are more likely to nucleate. I also agree [with Frohlich] that induced earthquakes are likely to persist for some time (months to years) after wastewater injection has ceased.' Frohlich added, 'Faults are everywhere. A lot of them are stuck, but if you pump water in there, it reduces friction and the fault slips a little. I can't prove that that's what happened, but it's a plausible explanation.' In the U.S. alone this correlation has been noted several times."