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NASA

Can Rep. John Culberson Save NASA's Space Exploration Program? 37

Posted by samzenpus
from the getting-the-money dept.
MarkWhittington writes The Houston Chronicle's Eric Berger has published the seventh in his series of articles about the American space program and what ails it. The piece focuses on Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, who has two fascinating aspects. The first is that he is taking over the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees NASA funding. The second is that he has a keen appreciation for the benefits of space exploration for its own sake and not just for his Houston area district.

Culberson wants to save NASA and the space program from his fellow politicians and return it to its true glory. He favors sending American astronauts back to the moon and a robotic space probe to Jupiter's moon Europa. He would like to enact budget reforms that take funding decisions away from the Office of Management and Budget and gives them solely to Congress. He favors a steady increase in NASA funding to pay for a proper program of space exploration. To say the least, he has his work cut out for him.
ISS

NASA 'Emails' a Socket Wrench To the ISS 105

Posted by Soulskill
from the hardware-as-a-service dept.
HughPickens.com writes: "Sarah LeTrent reports at CNN that NASA just emailed the design of a socket wrench to astronauts so that they could print it out in the orbit. The ratcheting socket wrench was the first "uplink tool" printed in space, according to Grant Lowery, marketing and communications manager for Made In Space, which built the printer in partnership with NASA. The tool was designed on the ground, emailed to the space station and then manufactured where it took four hours to print out the finished product. The space agency hopes to one day use the technology to make parts for broken equipment in space and long-term missions would benefit greatly from onboard manufacturing capabilities. "I remember when the tip broke off a tool during a mission," recalls NASA astronaut TJ Creamer, who flew aboard the space station during Expedition 22/23 from December 2009 to June 2010. "I had to wait for the next shuttle to come up to bring me a new one. Now, rather than wait for a resupply ship to bring me a new tool, in the future, I could just print it."
Science

New Record Set For Deepest Dwelling Fish 31

Posted by Soulskill
from the going-for-the-low-score dept.
mpicpp tips news that oceanographers have discovered a creature that sets the record for the most deeply dwelling fish on Earth. It was found in the Mariana Trench, some 8,145 meters below the surface. The 30-day voyage took place from the Schmidt Ocean Institute's research vessel, Falkor, and is the most comprehensive survey of world's deepest place ever undertaken. The Hadal Ecosystem Studies (Hades) team deployed unmanned landers more than 90 times to depths that ranged between 5,000m and 10,600m. They studied both steep walls of the undersea canyon. ... Dr. Jamieson said: "We think it is a snailfish, but it's so weird-looking; it's up in the air in terms of what it is. "It is unbelievably fragile, and when it swims, it looks like it has wet tissue paper floating behind it. And it has a weird snout — it looks like a cartoon dog snout."
Science

Birds Fled Area Before Tornadoes Appeared 89

Posted by Soulskill
from the didn't-tweet-about-it dept.
SternisheFan sends a report from scientists who were tracking a group of birds — golden-winged warblers — in the Appalachian mountains. Just a few days after the birds completed their seasonal migration, they did something odd — they picked up and moved again. Shortly thereafter, a series of storms swept through that area of the U.S., which led to a destructive tornado outbreak (abstract). After the storm had blown over, the team recaptured five of the warblers and removed the geolocators. These are tiny devices weighing about half a gram, which measure light levels. Based on the timing and length of the days they record, these gadgets allow scientists to calculate and track the approximate location of migratory birds. In this case, all five indicated that the birds had taken unprecedented evasive action, beginning one to two days ahead of the storm's arrival. "The warblers in our study flew at least 1,500km (932 miles) in total," Dr. Streby said. They escaped just south of the tornadoes' path — and then went straight home again. By 2 May, all five were back in their nesting area."
Earth

Massive Volcanic Eruptions Accompanied Dinosaur Extinction 59

Posted by Soulskill
from the some-say-dinosaurs-can't-swim-in-magma dept.
schwit1 writes: A careful updating of the geological timeline has shown that massive volcanic eruptions aligned with the extinction event that wiped out the non-avian dinosaurs 66 million years ago (abstract). "A primeval volcanic range in western India known as the Deccan Traps, which were once three times larger than France, began its main phase of eruptions roughly 250,000 years before the Cretaceous-Paleogene, or K-Pg, extinction event, the researchers report in the journal Science. For the next 750,000 years, the volcanoes unleashed more than 1.1 million cubic kilometers (264,000 cubic miles) of lava. The main phase of eruptions comprised about 80-90 percent of the total volume of the Deccan Traps' lava flow and followed a substantially weaker first phase that began about 1 million years earlier.

The results support the idea that the Deccan Traps played a role in the K-Pg extinction, and challenge the dominant theory that a meteorite impact near present-day Chicxulub, Mexico, was the sole cause of the extinction. The researchers suggest that the Deccan Traps eruptions and the Chicxulub impact need to be considered together when studying and modeling the K-Pg extinction event."
Medicine

How a 3D Printer Let a Dog Run For the First Time 24

Posted by timothy
from the dogs-have-been-running-since-forever dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes Ever since 3-D printing began to enter the mainstream, people have discussed the technology's potential for building prosthetic arms and legs for human beings. But what about doing the same for dogs? In one of those videos that ends up circulated endlessly on the Internet, a dog named Derby, born with a congenital deformity that deprived him of front paws, is outfitted with a pair of 3-D-printed prosthetics. With those "legs" in place, the dog can run for the first time, at a pretty good clip. Both the prosthetics and the video were produced by 3D Systems, which builds 3-D printers, and it seems likely that other 3-D-printing companies will explore the possibility of printing off parts for pets. And while the idea of a cyborg pooch is heartwarming, it will be interesting to see how 3D printers will continue to advance the realm of human prosthetics, which have become increasingly sophisticated over the past decade.
Biotech

Machine Learning Reveals Genetic Controls 13

Posted by Soulskill
from the finally-explains-why-your-ears-stick-out-so-far dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this quote from Quanta Magazine: Most genetic research to date has focused on just 1 percent of the genome — the areas that code for proteins. But new research, published today in Science, provides an initial map for the sections of the genome that orchestrate this protein-building process. "It's one thing to have the book — the big question is how you read the book," said Brendan Frey, a computational biologist at the University of Toronto who led the new research (abstract).

For example, researchers can use the model to predict what will happen to a protein when there’s a mistake in part of the regulatory code. Mutations in splicing instructions have already been linked to diseases such as spinal muscular atrophy, a leading cause of infant death, and some forms of colorectal cancer. In the new study, researchers used the trained model to analyze genetic data from people afflicted with some of those diseases. The scientists identified some known mutations linked to these maladies, verifying that the model works. They picked out some new candidate mutations as well, most notably for autism.

One of the benefits of the model, Frey said, is that it wasn’t trained using disease data, so it should work on any disease or trait of interest. The researchers plan to make the system publicly available, which means that scientists will be able to apply it to many more diseases.
Robotics

The Dominant Life Form In the Cosmos Is Probably Superintelligent Robots 373

Posted by Soulskill
from the quick-destroy-all-the-remaining-copies-of-Battlebots dept.
Jason Koebler writes: If and when we finally encounter aliens, they probably won't look like little green men, or spiny insectoids. It's likely they won't be biological creatures at all, but rather, advanced robots that outstrip our intelligence in every conceivable way. Susan Schneider, a professor of philosophy at the University of Connecticut, joins a handful of astronomers, including Seth Shostak, director of NASA's Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, NASA Astrobiologist Paul Davies, and Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology Stephen Dick in espousing the view that the dominant intelligence in the cosmos is probably artificial. In her paper "Alien Minds," written for a forthcoming NASA publication, Schneider describes why alien life forms are likely to be synthetic, and how such creatures might think.
Science

Quantum Physics Just Got Less Complicated 191

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-is-still-pretty-complicated dept.
wabrandsma sends this news from Phys.org: Here's a nice surprise: quantum physics is less complicated than we thought. An international team of researchers has proved that two peculiar features of the quantum world previously considered distinct are different manifestations of the same thing. The result is published 19 December in Nature Communications. Patrick Coles, Jedrzej Kaniewski, and Stephanie Wehner made the breakthrough while at the Center for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore. They found that wave-particle duality is simply the quantum uncertainty principle in disguise, reducing two mysteries to one.
The Media

Skeptics Would Like Media To Stop Calling Science Deniers 'Skeptics' 627

Posted by Soulskill
from the intellectual-brand-recognition dept.
Layzej writes: Prominent scientists, science communicators, and skeptic activists, are calling on the news media to stop using the word "skeptic" when referring to those who refuse to accept the reality of climate change, and instead refer to them by what they really are: science deniers. "Not all individuals who call themselves climate change skeptics are deniers. But virtually all deniers have falsely branded themselves as skeptics. By perpetrating this misnomer, journalists have granted undeserved credibility to those who reject science and scientific inquiry."
Science

Scientists Discover That Exercise Changes Your DNA 56

Posted by samzenpus
from the a-whole-new-you dept.
HughPickens.com writes The human genome is astonishingly complex and dynamic, with genes constantly turning on or off, depending on what biochemical signals they receive from the body. Scientists have known that certain genes become active or quieter as a result of exercise but they hadn't understood how those genes knew how to respond to exercise. Now the NYT reports that scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm have completed a study where they recruited 23 young and healthy men and women, brought them to the lab for a series of physical performance and medical tests, including a muscle biopsy, and then asked them to exercise half of their lower bodies for three months. The volunteers pedaled one-legged at a moderate pace for 45 minutes, four times per week for three months. Then the scientists repeated the muscle biopsies and other tests with each volunteer. Not surprisingly, the volunteers' exercised leg was more powerful now than the other, showing that the exercise had resulted in physical improvements. But there were also changes within the exercised muscle cells' DNA. Using technology that analyses 480,000 positions throughout the genome, they could see that new methylation patterns had taken place in 7,000 genes (an individual has 20–25,000 genes).

In a process known as DNA methylation, clusters of atoms, called methyl groups, attach to the outside of a gene like microscopic mollusks and make the gene more or less able to receive and respond to biochemical signals from the body. In the exercised portions of the bodies, many of the methylation changes were on portions of the genome known as enhancers that can amplify the expression of proteins by genes. And gene expression was noticeably increased or changed in thousands of the muscle-cell genes that the researchers studied. Most of the genes in question are known to play a role in energy metabolism, insulin response and inflammation within muscles. In other words, they affect how healthy and fit our muscles — and bodies — become. Many mysteries still remain but the message of the study is unambiguous. "Through endurance training — a lifestyle change that is easily available for most people and doesn't cost much money," says Sara Lindholm, "we can induce changes that affect how we use our genes and, through that, get healthier and more functional muscles that ultimately improve our quality of life."
NASA

Kepler Makes First Exoplanet Discovery After Mission Reboot 27

Posted by samzenpus
from the look-what-we-found dept.
astroengine writes NASA's Kepler space telescope has detected its first new extrasolar planet after mission engineers were able to save the mission from a premature death after two of the exoplanet hunter's four stabilizing reaction wheels failed last year. Called "K2," the extended mission arose from an "innovative idea" that appears to have given the prolific telescope a new lease on life. "Last summer, the possibility of a scientifically productive mission for Kepler after its reaction wheel failure in its extended mission was not part of the conversation," said Paul Hertz, NASA's astrophysics division director at the agency's headquarters in Washington D.C. "Today, thanks to an innovative idea and lots of hard work by the NASA and Ball Aerospace team, Kepler may well deliver the first candidates for follow-up study by the James Webb Space Telescope to characterize the atmospheres of distant worlds and search for signatures of life."
Earth

Satellite Captures Glowing Plants From Space 40

Posted by samzenpus
from the getting-that-glow dept.
sciencehabit writes About 1% of the light that strikes plants is re-emitted as a faint, fluorescent glow—a measure of photosynthetic activity. Today, scientists released a map of this glow as measured by the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, a NASA satellite launched in July with the goal of mapping the net amount of carbon in the atmosphere. The map reveals that tropical rainforests near the equator are actively sucking up carbon, while the Corn Belt in the eastern United States, near the end of its growing season, is also a sink. Higher resolution fluorescence mapping could one day be used to help assess crop yields and how they respond to drought and heat in a changing climate.
Space

India Successfully Test Fires Its Heaviest Rocket 56

Posted by timothy
from the might-roar dept.
vasanth (908280) writes India on Thursday moved forward in rocket technology with the successful flight testing of its heaviest next generation rocket and the crew module . The 630-tonne three-stage rocket, Geo-Synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III, carried active solid boosters, liquid core stage and a passive cryo stage and a crew module to test its re-entry characteristics. This rocket is capable of doubling the capacity of payloads India can carry into space and it can deposit up to four tonne class of communication satellites into space. India also plans to use this rocket for ferrying Indian astronauts into space. For India, ISRO (the Indian space agency) perfecting the cryogenic engine technology is crucial as India can save precious foreign exchange by launching heavy duty communication satellites by itself.
Math

Cause and Effect: How a Revolutionary New Statistical Test Can Tease Them Apart 136

Posted by timothy
from the submission-caused-post dept.
KentuckyFC writes Statisticians have long thought it impossible to tell cause and effect apart using observational data. The problem is to take two sets of measurements that are correlated, say X and Y, and to find out if X caused Y or Y caused X. That's straightforward with a controlled experiment in which one variable can be held constant to see how this influences the other. Take for example, a correlation between wind speed and the rotation speed of a wind turbine. Observational data gives no clue about cause and effect but an experiment that holds the wind speed constant while measuring the speed of the turbine, and vice versa, would soon give an answer. But in the last couple of years, statisticians have developed a technique that can tease apart cause and effect from the observational data alone. It is based on the idea that any set of measurements always contain noise. However, the noise in the cause variable can influence the effect but not the other way round. So the noise in the effect dataset is always more complex than the noise in the cause dataset. The new statistical test, known as the additive noise model, is designed to find this asymmetry. Now statisticians have tested the model on 88 sets of cause-and-effect data, ranging from altitude and temperature measurements at German weather stations to the correlation between rent and apartment size in student accommodation.The results suggest that the additive noise model can tease apart cause and effect correctly in up to 80 per cent of the cases (provided there are no confounding factors or selection effects). That's a useful new trick in a statistician's armoury, particularly in areas of science where controlled experiments are expensive, unethical or practically impossible.
Medicine

After 40 Years As a Double Amputee, Man Gains Two Bionic Arms 66

Posted by timothy
from the about-time-really dept.
MojoKid writes Les Baugh, a Colorado man who lost both arms in an electrical accident 40 years ago, is looking forward to being able to insert change into a soda machine and retrieving the beverage himself. But thanks to the wonders of science and technology — and Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) — he'll regain some of those functions while making history as the first bilateral shoulder-level amputee to wear and simultaneously control two Modular Prosthetic Limbs (MPLs). "It's a relatively new surgical procedure that reassigns nerves that once controlled the arm and the hand," explained Johns Hopkins Trauma Surgeon Albert Chi, M.D. "By reassigning existing nerves, we can make it possible for people who have had upper-arm amputations to control their prosthetic devices by merely thinking about the action they want to perform."
Crime

Did Alcatraz Escapees Survive? Computer Program Says They Might Have 87

Posted by timothy
from the like-to-think-so dept.
In June of 1962, three prisoners escaped the penitentary on Alcatraz, in an elaborate plot that was dramatized in a Clint Eastwood movie. A question that has long puzzled the public is whether these men ever made it to shore; the many factors that made Alcatraz a secure prison include sharks, cold water, and contrary currents. Still, some artifacts from the attempt, and perhaps the appeal of stories about survival against high odds, have led many people to believe that the men actually landed safely and faded into society. coondoggie writes This week Dutch scientists from Delft University of Technology presented findings from a computer modeling program they were working on, unrelated to the mystery, that demonstrated the escapees could have survived the journey. "In hindsight, the best time to launch a boat from Alcatraz was [11:30 am], one and a half hours later than has generally been assumed. A rubber boat leaving Alcatraz at [11:30 am] would most likely have landed just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. The model also shows that debris in that scenario would be likely to wash up at Angel Island, exactly where one of the paddles and some personal belongings were found.
Education

Startup Helps You Build Your Very Own Picosatellite On a Budget 21

Posted by samzenpus
from the to-infinty-and-beyond dept.
Zothecula writes A Glasgow-based startup is reducing the cost of access to space by offering "satellite kits" that make it easier for space enthusiasts, high schools and universities alike to build a small but functional satellite for as little as US$6,000 and then, thanks to its very small size, to launch for significantly less than the popular CubeSats.

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