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Biotech

NASA Ames Reproduces the Building Blocks of Life In Laboratory 53

Posted by samzenpus
from the build-it-yourself dept.
hypnosec writes "Scientists at NASA's Ames Research Center have reproduced non-biologically the three basic components of life found in both DNA and RNA — uracil, cytosine, and thymine. For their experiment scientists deposited an ice sample containing pyrimidine — a ring-shaped molecule made up of carbon and nitrogen — on a cold substrate in a chamber with space-like conditions such as very high vacuum, extremely low temperatures, and irradiated the sample with high-energy ultraviolet photons from a hydrogen lamp. Researchers discovered that such an arrangement produces these essential ingredients of life. "We have demonstrated for the first time that we can make uracil, cytosine, and thymine, all three components of RNA and DNA, non-biologically in a laboratory under conditions found in space," said Michel Nuevo, research scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California. "We are showing that these laboratory processes, which simulate conditions in outer space, can make several fundamental building blocks used by living organisms on Earth."
Space

Massive Exoplanet Evolved In Extreme 4-Star System 34

Posted by samzenpus
from the four-is-better-than-one dept.
astroengine writes "For only the second time, an exoplanet living with an expansive family of four stars has been revealed. The exoplanet, which is a huge gaseous world 10 times the mass of Jupiter, was previously known to occupy a 3-star system, but a fourth star (a red dwarf) has now been found, revealing quadruple star systems possessing planets are more common than we thought. "About four percent of solar-type stars are in quadruple systems, which is up from previous estimates because observational techniques are steadily improving," said co-author Andrei Tokovinin of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. The whole 4-star family is collectively known as 30 Ari, located some 136 light-years from Earth — in our interstellar backyard. The exoplanet orbits the primary star of the system once every 335 days. The primary star has a new-found binary partner (which the exoplanet does not orbit) and this pair are locked in an orbital dance with a secondary binary, separated by a distance of 1,670 astronomical unit (AU), where 1 AU is the average distance between the Earth and sun.
Government

White House Threatens Veto Over EPA "Secret Science" Bills 242

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-sir-I-don't-like-it dept.
sciencehabit writes The U.S. House of Representatives could vote as early as this week to approve two controversial, Republican-backed bills that would change how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses science and scientific advice to inform its policies. Many Democrats, scientific organizations, and environmental groups are pushing back, calling the bills thinly veiled attempts to weaken future regulations and favor industry. White House advisers announced that they will recommend that President Barack Obama veto the bills if they reach his desk in their current form.
Sci-Fi

'The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress' Coming To the Big Screen 267

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-first-get-a-permit dept.
HughPickens.com writes: According to the Hollywood Reporter, Twentieth Century Fox recently picked up the movie rights to The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, based on the classic sci-fi book by Robert A. Heinlein. It will retitled as Uprising. Heinlein's 1966 sci-fi novel centers on a lunar colony's revolt against rule from Earth, and the book popularized the acronym TANSTAAFL (There ain't no such thing as a free lunch), a central, libertarian theme. The novel was nominated for the 1966 Nebula award (honoring the best sci-fi and fantasy work in the U.S.) and won the Hugo Award for best science fiction novel in 1967. An adaptation has been attempted twice before — by DreamWorks, which had a script by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, and by Phoenix Pictures, with Harry Potter producer David Heyman attached — but both languished and the rights reverted to Heinlein's estate. Brian Singer, who previously directed X-Men: Days of Future Past, will adapt the screenplay and reportedly direct. Several of Heinlein's works have been adapted for the big and small screen, including the 1953 film Project Moonbase, the 1994 TV miniseries Red Planet, the 1994 film The Puppet Masters, the 2014 film Predestination, and — very loosely — the 1997 film Starship Troopers.
Science

Racial Discrimination Affects Virtual Reality Characters Too 227

Posted by Soulskill
from the why-are-you-so-mean-to-your-Sims-characters dept.
vrml writes: You are looking for the exit of a building in a virtual reality experience when a virtual character gets stuck in a room and cries for your help. Could the color of the skin (black or white) of the virtual human influence your decision to provide or refuse help? That's what comes out from a new study published by the journal Computers in Human Behavior. White users were told that they had to reach the exit of the virtual building as soon as possible. The number of users who decided to help tripled when the virtual victim was white rather than black. Researchers tried also other conditions in which they did not put users under time pressure: this reduced the discrimination, although the number of users who helped remained more favorable for the white rather than the black virtual human. The paper explains these results in terms of the automatic categorization processes that originate from unwanted, unconscious social and cultural biases: putting people under pressure increases automatic responses, leading to more discrimination towards the black character.
Mars

Mars Curiosity Rover Experiences Short Circuit, Will Be Stationary For Days 33

Posted by Soulskill
from the shocking-news-from-mars dept.
hypnosec writes: NASA says its Mars Curiosity rover has experienced a transient short circuit. The team has halted all work from the rover temporarily while engineers analyze the situation. Telemetry data received from Curiosity indicated the short circuit, after which the vehicle followed its programmed response, stopping the arm activity underway whenthe irregularity in the electric current happened. Curiosity will stay parked as its engineers analyze the situation and figure out if any damage has been done. NASA says a transient short circuit would have little effect on the rover's operations in some systems, but it could force the team to restrict use of whatever mechanism caused the problem.
Medicine

Treadmill Performance Predicts Mortality 127

Posted by Soulskill
from the reasons-OK-Go-are-immortal dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Cardiologists from Johns Hopkins have published an analysis of exercise data that strongly links a patient's performance on a treadmill to their risk of dying. Using data from stress tests of over 58,000 people, they report: "[A]mong people of the same age and gender, fitness level as measured by METs and peak heart rate reached during exercise were the greatest indicators of death risk. Fitness level was the single most powerful predictor of death and survival, even after researchers accounted for other important variables such as diabetes and family history of premature death — a finding that underscores the profound importance of heart and lung fitness, the investigators say." The scoring system is from -200 to +200. People scoring between -100 and 0 face an 11% risk of dying in the next decade. People scoring between -200 and -100 face a 38% risk of death within the next decade. People scoring above zero face only a 3% chance or less.
News

Lost City Discovered In Honduran Rain Forest 61

Posted by Soulskill
from the hiding-spot-for-stranded-time-travellers dept.
jones_supa writes: An expedition to Honduras has emerged from the jungle with the discovery of a previously unknown culture's lost city. The team was led to the remote, uninhabited region by long-standing rumors that it was the site of a storied "White City," also referred to in legend as the "City of the Monkey God." Archaeologists surveyed and mapped extensive plazas, earthworks, mounds, and an earthen pyramid belonging to a culture that thrived a thousand years ago, and then vanished. The team also discovered a remarkable cache of stone sculptures that had lain untouched since the city was abandoned. The objects were documented but left unexcavated. To protect the site from looters, its location is not being revealed.
Space

Rosetta Photographs Its Own Shadow On Comet 67P/C-G 20

Posted by Soulskill
from the pretty-pictures dept.
mpicpp notes an image release from the European Space Agency showing the shadow of its Rosetta probe on the comet it's currently orbiting. The probe snapped the picture from a very low flyby — only six kilometers off the surface. The image has a resolution of 11cm/pixel. The shadow is fuzzy and somewhat larger than Rosetta itself, measuring approximately 20 x 50 metres. If the Sun were a point source, the shadow would be sharp and almost exactly the same size as Rosetta (approximately 2 x 32 m). However, even at 347 million km from 67P/C-G on 14 February, the Sun appeared as a disc about 0.2 degrees across (about 2.3 times smaller than on Earth), resulting in a fuzzy “penumbra” around the spacecraft’s shadow on the surface. In this scenario and with Rosetta 6 km above the surface, the penumbra effect adds roughly 20 metres to the spacecraft’s dimensions, and which is cast onto the tilted surface of the comet.
Science

Physicists Gear Up To Catch a Gravitational Wave 122

Posted by Soulskill
from the surf's-up dept.
sciencehabit writes: A patch of woodland just north of Livingston, Louisiana, population 1893, isn't the first place you'd go looking for a breakthrough in physics. Yet it is here that physicists may fulfill perhaps the most spectacular prediction of Albert Einstein's theory of gravity, or general relativity. Structures here house the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), an ultrasensitive instrument that may soon detect ripples in space and time set off when neutron stars or black holes merge. Einstein himself predicted the existence of such gravitational waves nearly a century ago. But only now is the quest to detect them coming to a culmination. Physicists are finishing a $205 million rebuild of the detectors, known as Advanced LIGO, which should make them 10 times more sensitive and, they say, virtually ensure a detection.
Space

Astronomers Find an Old-Looking Galaxy In the Early Universe 150

Posted by Soulskill
from the diamond-in-the-old dept.
schwit1 tips news that a team of astronomers has studied one of the most distant galaxies ever observed and found puzzling results. The light we're seeing from this galaxy comes from roughly 700 million years after the Big Bang, so on the cosmic scale, it's quite young. But the galaxy appears much older than astronomers expected. Their paper was published today in Nature. At this age it would be expected to display a lack of heavier chemical elements — anything heavier than hydrogen and helium, defined in astronomy as metals. These are produced in the bellies of stars and scattered far and wide once the stars explode or otherwise perish. This process needs to be repeated for many stellar generations to produce a significant abundance of the heavier elements such as carbon, oxygen and nitrogen. Surprisingly, the galaxy A1689-zD1 seemed to be emitting a lot of radiation in the far infrared, indicating that it had already produced many of its stars and significant quantities of metals, and revealed that it not only contained dust, but had a dust-to-gas ratio that was similar to that of much more mature galaxies.
Science

Photo First: Light Captured As Both Particle and Wave 125

Posted by samzenpus
from the suitable-for-framing dept.
mpicpp sends word that scientists have succeeded in capturing the first-ever snapshot of the dual behavior of light. "It's one of those enduring Zen koans of science that we've all grown up with: Light behaves as both a particle and a wave—at the same time. Einstein taught us that, so we're all generally on board, but to actually understand what it means would require several Ph.D.s and a thorough understanding of quantum physics. What's more, scientists have never been able to devise an experiment that documents light behaving as both a wave and a particle simultaneously. Until now. That's the contention of a team of Swiss and American researchers, who say they've succeeded in capturing the first-ever snapshot of light's dual behavior. Using an advanced electron microscope – one of only two on the planet – at the EPFL labs in Switzerland, the team has generated a kind of quantum photograph of light behaving as both a particle and a wave. The experiment involves firing laser light at a microscopic metallic nanowire, causing light to travel — as a wave — back and forth along the wire. When waves traveling in opposite directions meet, they form a "standing wave" that emits light itself — as particles. By shooting a stream of electrons close to the nanowire, the researchers were able to capture an image that simultaneously demonstrates both the wave-nature and particle-nature of light. 'This experiment demonstrates that, for the first time ever, we can film quantum mechanics — and its paradoxical nature — directly,' says lead researcher Fabrizio Carbone of EPFL, on the lab's project page. The study is to be officially published this week in the journal Nature Communications."
Space

NASA's Spitzer Team Releases Highest-resolution View of the Full Galactic Plane 38

Posted by samzenpus
from the we're-going-to-need-a-bigger-screen dept.
StartsWithABang writes From our vantage point within the Milky Way, most of our 200-400 billion stars are obscured by the dust lanes present within. But thanks to its views in infrared light, the Spitzer Space Telescope can glimpse not only all of the stars and the dust simultaneously, it can do it at an alarming resolution. Recently, NASA has put together a 360 panorama of more than 2,000,000 Spitzer images taken from 2003-2014, and one astrophysicist has gone and stitched them together into a single, 180,000-pixel-long viewable experience that shows less than 3% of the sky, but nearly 50% of its stars.
Earth

Doomsday Vault: First Tree Samples Arrive At Underground Seed Store 55

Posted by samzenpus
from the last-hope dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, built into an Arctic mountain, received its first delivery of tree seeds. Opened in 2008, the vault is designed to withstand all natural and human disasters. From the article: "The 'doomsday' vault built into an Arctic mountain, which stores seeds for food crops in case of a natural disaster, has received its first delivery of tree samples. Norway spruce and Scots pine seeds have arrived at the frozen vault, which is located on Svalbard, an archipelago owned by and north of Norway. The organizations behind the vault hope to bring more seeds from outside of the Nordic countries. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault will now look after the samples and use them to monitor how natural forests change. They will also keep them as back-ups, in case any of the species are lost, and to see how the forests change during breeding."
United Kingdom

World's First Lagoon Power Plants Unveiled In UK 187

Posted by samzenpus
from the power-up dept.
AmiMoJo writes Plans to generate electricity from the world's first series of tidal lagoons have been unveiled in the UK. The six lagoons — four in Wales and one each in Somerset and Cumbria — will capture incoming and outgoing tides behind giant sea walls, and use the weight of the water to power turbines. The series of six lagoons could generate 8% of the UK's electricity for an investment of £12bn. Tidal Lagoon Power wants £168 per MWh hour for electricity in Swansea, reducing to £90-£95 per MWh for power from a second, more efficient lagoon in Cardiff. The £90 figure compares favorably with the £92.50 price for power from the planned Hinkley nuclear station, especially as the lagoon is designed to last 120 years — at a much lower risk than nuclear. Unlike power from the sun and wind, tidal power is predictable. Turbines capture energy from two incoming and two outgoing tides a day, and are expected to be active for an average of 14 hours a day. Friends of the Earth Cymru, said the group is broadly in favor of the Swansea lagoon.
Math

Statistical Mechanics Finds Best Places To Hide During Zombie Apocalypse 244

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-we-wanna-do-is-eat-your-brains dept.
HughPickens.com writes Eric Mack reports at Cnet that a team of researchers at Cornell University, inspired by the book "World War Z" by Max Brooks, have used statistical-mechanics to model how an actual zombie outbreak might unfold and determined the best long-term strategy for surviving the walking dead: Head for the hills. Specifically, you should probably get familiar now with the general location of Glacier National Park so that when it all goes down, you can start heading in that direction. The project started with differential equations to model a fully connected population, then moved on to lattice-based models, and ended with a full US-scale simulation of an outbreak across the continental US. "At their heart, the simulations are akin to modeling chemical reactions taking place between different elements and, in this case, we have four states a person can be in--human," says Alex Alemi, "infected, zombie, or dead zombie--with approximately 300 million people."

Alemi believes cities would succumb to the zombie scourge quickly, but the infection rate would slow down significantly in more sparsely populated areas and could take months to reach places like the Northern Rockies and Glacier National Park. "Given the dynamics of the disease, once the zombies invade more sparsely populated areas, the whole outbreak slows down--there are fewer humans to bite, so you start creating zombies at a slower rate," Alemi says. Once you hit Montana and Idaho, you might as well keep heading farther north into the Canadian Rockies and all the way up to Alaska where data analysis shows you're most likely to survive the zombie apocalypse. The state with the lowest survival rate? — New Jersey. Unfortunately a full scale simulation of an outbreak in the United States shows that for `realistic' parameters, we are largely doomed.
Space

SpaceX Falcon 9 Launches Dual Satellite Mission 22

Posted by samzenpus
from the up-up-and-away dept.
JoeSilva writes SpaceX successfully launched two satellites towards Geosynchronous Orbit. There's already a video of one deployment. Word is the launch went very smoothly and bodes well for their next launch in three weeks, as they work to fulfill what is now a very full launch manifest. In addition Elon had one more thing to share: "Upgrades in the works to allow landing for geo missions: thrust +15%, deep cryo oxygen, upper stage tank vol +10%."
Google

Google Wants To Rank Websites Based On Facts Not Links 373

Posted by samzenpus
from the just-the-facts dept.
wabrandsma writes about Google's new system for ranking the truthfulness of a webpage. "Google's search engine currently uses the number of incoming links to a web page as a proxy for quality, determining where it appears in search results. So pages that many other sites link to are ranked higher. This system has brought us the search engine as we know it today, but the downside is that websites full of misinformation can rise up the rankings, if enough people link to them. Google research team is adapting that model to measure the trustworthiness of a page, rather than its reputation across the web. Instead of counting incoming links, the system – which is not yet live – counts the number of incorrect facts within a page. 'A source that has few false facts is considered to be trustworthy,' says the team. The score they compute for each page is its Knowledge-Based Trust score. The software works by tapping into the Knowledge Vault, the vast store of facts that Google has pulled off the internet. Facts the web unanimously agrees on are considered a reasonable proxy for truth. Web pages that contain contradictory information are bumped down the rankings."
Space

20-Year-Old Military Weather Satellite Explodes In Orbit 253

Posted by samzenpus
from the go-boom dept.
schwit1 writes A 20-year-old U.S. military weather satellite apparently exploded for no obvious reason. The incident has put several dozen pieces of space junk into orbit. From the article: "A 20-year-old military weather satellite apparently exploded in orbit Feb. 3 following what the U.S. Air Force described as a sudden temperature spike. The “catastrophic event” produced 43 pieces of space debris, according to Air Force Space Command, which disclosed the loss of the satellite Feb. 27 in response to questions from SpaceNews. The satellite, Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Flight 13, was the oldest continuously operational satellite in the DMSP weather constellation."
ISS

Spacewalking Astronauts Finish Extensive, Tricky Cable Job 22

Posted by samzenpus
from the good-work-larry dept.
An anonymous reader writes news about a three-day cable job completed outside the International Space Station. "Spacewalking astronauts successfully completed a three-day cable job outside the International Space Station on Sunday, routing several-hundred feet of power and data lines for new crew capsules commissioned by NASA. It was the third spacewalk in just over a week for Americans Terry Virts and Butch Wilmore, and the quickest succession of spacewalks since NASA's former shuttle days. The advance work was needed for the manned spacecraft under development by Boeing and SpaceX. A pair of docking ports will fly up later this year, followed by the capsules themselves, with astronauts aboard, in 2017."