Bill Pringle - Bill@BillPringle

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Interesting Articles

This page contains links to interesting articles about computers and other stuff. Please let me know if you find any broken links. I may or may not agree with the opinions expressed in any of these articles.

If you are interested in Facebook, you might want to see my Facebook page, which contains suggestions on how to keep your information safe while enjoying Facebook.

I found many of these on SlashDot, and used their descriptions. The nice thing about the Slashdot articles is that can learn more information from the discussions.

Article Description/Comments
In Hawaii, a 6-Person Crew Begins a Year-Long Mars Isolation Experiment
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The BBC reports that six volunteers have begun a planned year-long stint "without fresh air, fresh food or privacy" in a NASA simulation of what life might be like for a group of Mars colonists. The volunteers are to spend the next 12 months in the dome (11 meters in diameter, 6 meters high), except for space-suited out-of-dome excursions, where they will eat space-style meals, sleep on tiny cots, and keep up a science schedule. The current mission is the fourth (and longest yet) from the Hawai'i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation; you can read more about this mission's crew here.
Ocean Cleanup Project Completes Great Pacific Garbage Patch Research Expedition
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The reconnaissance mission of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, dubbed the Mega Expedition by Ocean Clean, has been concluded. The large-scale cleanup of the area is set to begin in 2020. The primary goal of the Mega Expedition was to accurately determine how much plastic is floating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This was the first time large pieces of plastic, such as ghost nets and Japanese tsunami debris, have been quantified. “I’ve studied plastic in all the world’s oceans, but never seen any area as polluted as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” said Dr. Julia Reisser, Lead Oceanographer at The Ocean Cleanup. “With every trawl we completed, thousands of miles from land, we just found lots and lots of plastic.”
Most Healthcare Managers Admit Their IT Systems Have Been Compromised
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Eighty-one percent of healthcare IT managers say their organizations have been compromised by at least one malware, botnet or other kind of cyber attack during the past two years, and only half of those managers feel that they are adequately prepared to prevent future attacks, according to a new survey by KPMG. The KPMG survey polled 223 CIOs, CTOs, chief security officers and chief compliance officers at healthcare providers and health plans, and found 65% indicated malware was most frequently reported line of attack during the past 12 to 24 months. Additionally, those surveyed indicated the areas with the greatest vulnerabilities within their organization include external attackers (65%), sharing data with third parties (48%), employee breaches (35%), wireless computing (35%) and inadequate firewalls (27%). Top among reasons healthcare facilities are facing increased risk, was the adoption of digital patient records and the automation of clinical systems.
Many Drivers Never Use In-Vehicle Tech, Don't Want Apple Or Google In Next Car
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Many of the high-tech features automakers believe owners want in their vehicles are not only not being used by them, but they don't want them in their next vehicle, according to a new survey by J.D. Power. According to J.D. Power's 2015 Driver Interactive Vehicle Experience (DrIVE) Report, 20% of new-vehicle owners have never used 16 of 33 of the latest technology features. The five features owners most commonly report that they "never use" are in-vehicle concierge (43%); mobile routers (38%); automatic parking systems (35%); heads-up display (33%); and built-in apps (32%). Additionally, there are 14 technology features that 20% or more of owners don't even want in their next vehicle. Those features include Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto, in-vehicle concierge services and in-vehicle voice texting. When narrowed to just Gen Yers, the number of vehicle owners who don't want entertainment and connectivity systems increases to 23%.
How To Keep Microsoft's Nose Out of Your Personal Data In Windows 10
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Amid the privacy concerns and arguably invasive nature of Microsoft's Windows 10 regarding user information, it's no surprise that details on how to minimize leaks as much as possible are often requested by users who have recently made the jump to the new operating system. If you are using Windows 10, or plan to upgrade soon, it's worth bearing in mind a number of privacy-related options that are available, even during the installation/upgrade. If you are already running the OS and forgot to turn them off during installation (or didn't even see them), they can be accessed via the Settings menu on the start menu, and then selecting Privacy from the pop-up menu. Among these menus are a plethora of options regarding what data can be gathered about you. It's worth noting, however, that changing any of these options may disable various OS related services, namely Cortana, as Microsoft's digital assistant has it tendrils buried deep.
NASA Mulls Missions To Neptune and Uranus, Using the Space Launch System
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According to a story in Astronomy Magazine, NASA is contemplating sending flagship sized space probes to the so-called "ice giants" of Uranus and Neptune. These probes would orbit the two outer planets, similar to how Galileo orbited Jupiter and how Cassini currently orbits Saturn. The only time NASA has previously had a close encounter with either of these worlds was when Voyager 2 flew by Uranus in 1986 and then Neptune in 1989. Each of these missions would happen after the Europa Clipper, a flagship-class mission scheduled for the mid-2020s.
US Scientists Successfully 'Switch Off' Cancer Cells
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Mayo Clinic cancer researchers have developed a technique to reprogram cancer cells in a lab, essentially "turning off" their excessive cell growth.

That code was unraveled by the discovery that adhesion proteins — the glue that keeps cells together — interact with the microprocessor, a key player in the production of molecules called microRNAs (miRNAs). The miRNAs orchestrate whole cellular programs by simultaneously regulating expression of a group of genes (abstract). The investigators found that when normal cells come in contact with each other, a specific subset of miRNAs suppresses genes that promote cell growth. However, when adhesion is disrupted in cancer cells, these miRNAs are misregulated and cells grow out of control. The investigators showed, in laboratory experiments, that restoring the normal miRNA levels in cancer cells can reverse that aberrant cell growth.
Dawn Drops To 1470km Orbit, Snaps Sharper Pictures of Ceres
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NASA's Dawn spacecraft, after an extensive series of high orbits around Ceres, has now dropped to just 1,470 kilometers over the dwarf planet's surface. It has begun an 11-day process to map the entirety of Ceres, which it will repeat several times over the next couple months. Its lower orbit now allows photo resolution of ~140 meters per pixel, and it has sent back some great images. "Engineers and scientists will also refine their measurements of Ceres' gravity field, which will help mission planners in designing Dawn's next orbit — its lowest — as well as the journey to get there. In late October, Dawn will begin spiraling toward this final orbit, which will be at an altitude of 230 miles (375 kilometers)."
Stephen Hawking Presents Theory On Getting Information Out of a Black Hole
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Physicist Stephen Hawking claims to have figured out a way for information to leave a black hole. He presented his theory today at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. Scientists have struggled with the black hole information paradox for years, and Hawking thinks this new theory could be a solution. He said, "I propose that the information is stored not in the interior of the black hole as one might expect, but in its boundary, the event horizon." Put in layman's terms, "this jumbled return of information was like burning an encyclopedia: You wouldn't technically lose any information if you kept all of the ashes in one place, but you'd have a hard time looking up the capital of Minnesota." Information can leave the black hole via Hawking radiation, though it will be functionally useless. Hawking worked with Cambridge's Malcolm Perry and Harvard's Andrew Stromberg on this theory.
Fusion Progress: Superheated Gas Kept Stable For 5 Milliseconds
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A company called Tri Alpha has successfully kept a ball of superheated gas stable for a record time, 5 milliseconds, putting them closer to producing fusion power. "'They've succeeded finally in achieving a lifetime limited only by the power available to the system,' says particle physicist Burton Richter of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, who sits on a board of advisers to Tri Alpha. If the company's scientists can scale the technique up to longer times and higher temperatures, they will reach a stage at which atomic nuclei in the gas collide forcefully enough to fuse together, releasing energy.

Importantly, the Tri Alpha machine may be able to operate with a different fuel than most other fusion reactors. This fuel-a mix of hydrogen and boron-is harder to react, but Tri Alpha researchers say it avoids many of the problems likely to confront conventional fusion power plants." The article does not say how much this success cost the privately-funded Tri Alpha, but it certainly wasn't in the billions of dollars.
Happy Birthday, Linux! An OS At 24
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It has been 24 long years since the first ever release of the Linux project on August 25, 1991, which is the core component of any GNU/Linux distribution. With this occasion we want to remind everyone that Linux is everywhere, even if you don't see it. You use Linux when you search on Google, when you use your phone, when buy metro tickets, actually the whole Internet is powered by Linux. Happy Birthday, Linux!
Next Texas Energy Boom: Solar
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The Wall Street Journal reports: "Solar power has gotten so cheap to produce—and so competitively priced in the electricity market—that it is taking hold even in a state that, unlike California, doesn't offer incentives to utilities to buy or build sun-powered generation." Falling cost is one factor driving investment. "Another reason for the boom: Texas recently wrapped up construction of $6.9 billion worth of new transmission lines, many connecting West Texas to the state's large cities. These massive power lines enabled Texas to become, by far, the largest U.S. wind producer. Solar developers plan to move electricity on the same lines, taking advantage of a lull in wind generation during the heat of the day when solar output is at its highest."
South Africans Revolutionize Concentrated Solar Power With Mini Heliostats
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Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) offers significant benefits, but it's often prohibitively expensive. Paul Gauché from Stellenbosch University in South Africa hopes to change that with Helio 100, a series of 'plonkable' miniature heliostats that require no installation or concrete, and offer solar energy that's cheaper than diesel. The Gaurdian reports: "Helio100 is a pilot project with over 100 heliostats of 2.2 sq meters each, generating 150 Kilowatts (kW) of power in total – enough to power about 10 households. According to Gauché, the array is already cheaper than using diesel, the go-to fuel for most companies and businesses during regular power outages in the country. Google’s RE
Court: FTC Can Punish Companies With Sloppy Cybersecurity
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The Congressional act that created the Federal Trade Commission gave that agency broad powers to punish companies engaged in "unfair and deceptive practices." Today, a U.S. appeals court affirmed that sloppy cybersecurity falls under that umbrella. The case involves data breaches at Wyndham Worldwide, which stored customer payment card information in clear, readable text, and used easily guessed passwords to access its important systems.
A Breakdown of the Windows 10 Privacy Policy
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The Verge has a piece on Windows 10 privacy that presents actual passages from the EULA and privacy policy that suggest what the OS is capturing and sending back to Microsoft. The piece takes a Microsoft-friendly point of view, arguing that all Microsoft is doing is either helpful or already being done either by Google or older releases of Windows, and also touches on how to shut things off (which is also explained here). But the quoted passages from the EULA and the privacy policy are interesting to review, particularly if you look out for legal weasel words that are open to Microsoft's interpretation, such as "various types (of data)", diagnostic data "vital" to the operation of Windows (cannot be turned off), sharing personal data "as necessary" and "to protect the rights or property of Microsoft". And while their explanations following the quotes may attempt an overly friendly spin, the article may be right about one thing: "In all, only a handful of these new features, and the privacy concerns they bring, are actually in fact new... Most people have just been either unaware or just did not care of their existence in past operating systems and software.
"Even pirates are having privacy concerns and blocking Windows 10 users.
Group Seeks Test For Geoengineering Tool To Fight Climate Change
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A group of retired engineers and scientists has been meeting for several years to develop techniques to fight climate change. They've now reached the point where they want to actively test a machine that shoots water droplets into the sky in order to supplement existing clouds and increase the planet's albedo. The group is not aiming for full deployment — in fact, it's not even unanimous in support for prevailing theories in climate science. But they all agree that it's important to learn about such technologies before the situation becomes a crisis. "We need to understand whether this approach is even possible and what the risks are, in the event that we find ourselves looking for ways to extend time and mitigate warming damage."

If we're eventually forced to deploy large-scale geoengineering projects to combat climate change, it's not a good idea to grab whatever technology is cheapest or most readily available without knowing how well it works. The group is aware of the ethical concerns surrounding such research, but its director notes, "The fact is humanity is already engaged in unplanned climate engineering. We're doing it through coal plant and shipping emissions every day without understanding it very well."
FBI Informant: Ray Bradbury's Sci-fi Written To Induce Communistic Mass Hysteria
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This is the kind of silliness I grew up with.
The FBI followed Ray Bradbury's career very closely, in part because an informant warned them that his writing was not enjoyable fantasy, but rather tantamount to psychological warfare. "The general aim of these science fiction writers is to frighten the people into a state of paralysis or psychological incompetence bordering on hysteria," the informant warned. "Which would make it very possible to conduct a Third World War in which the American people would believe could not be won since their morale had seriously been destroyed."
ASA's Hurricane Model Resolution Increases Nearly 10-Fold Since Katrina
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Thanks to improvements in satellites and on-the-ground computing power, NASA's ability to model hurricane data has come a long way in the ten years since Katrina devastated New Orleans. Their blog notes, "Today's models have up to ten times the resolution than those during Hurricane Katrina and allow for a more accurate look inside the hurricane. Imagine going from video game figures made of large chunky blocks to detailed human characters that visibly show beads of sweat on their forehead." Gizmodo covered the post too and added some technical details, noting that, "the supercomputer has more than 45,000 processor cores and runs at 1.995 petfalops."
MIT Researchers Discover "Metabolic Master Switch" To Control Obesity
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The meme of the chubby nerd alone in the basement may be a thing of the past. Well, at least the chubby part, if recent work at MIT pans out and we're able to use a biological "master switch" to "dial-in" a persons metabolic rate. “Obesity has traditionally been seen as the result of an imbalance between the amount of food we eat and how much we exercise, but this view ignores the contribution of genetics to each individual’s metabolism,” said senior author Manolis Kellis, a professor of computer science and a member of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and of the Broad Institute.
Historic 'Tile' Discovery Gives Math World A Big Jolt
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A team of mathematicians has wowed the math world with their discovery of a new kind of pentagon capable of "tiling a plane"--that is, fitting together on a flat surface without overlapping or leaving any gaps.
Utah inventions: The birth of computer graphics
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One of the most amazing stories of computing is not out of Microsoft or Apple, or some company in San Francisco. It is about the creation of the computer graphics industry that was generated by the Utah company Evans & Sutherland
Enormous Red Sprites Seen From Space
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A gorgeous photo, captured from the International Space Station on the night of Aug. 10, 2015, shows an orbital view of thunderstorms over the city lights of southern Mexico as a recumbent Orion rises over Earth's limb. But wait, there's more: along the right edge of the picture a cluster of bright red and purple streamers can be seen rising above a blue-white flash of lightning: it's an enormous red sprite caught on camera! First photographed in 1989, red sprites are very brief flashes of optical activity that are associated with powerful lightning. So-called because of their elusive nature, sprites typically appear as branching red tendrils reaching up above the region of an exceptionally strong lightning flash. These electrical discharges can extend as high as 55 miles (90 kilometers) into the atmosphere, with the brightest region usually around altitudes of 40–45 miles (65–75 km). Sprites don't last very long — 3–10 milliseconds at most — and so to catch one (technically here it's a cluster of them) on camera is a real feat... or, in this case, a great surprise!
FCC Fines Smart City $750K For Blocking Wi-Fi
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FCC's Enforcement Bureau today announced a $750,000 settlement with Smart City Holdings, LLC for blocking consumers' Wi-Fi at various convention centers around the United States. Smart City, an Internet and telecommunications provider for conventions, meeting centers, and hotels, had been blocking personal mobile 'hotspots' that were being used by convention visitors and exhibitors who used their own data plans rather than paying Smart City substantial fees to use the company's Wi-Fi service.
'Drinkable Book' Pages Clean Dirty Drinking Water
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Scientists have developed what they're calling the "Drinkable Book," which contains pages that can be torn out and used to effectively filter drinking water. The book has just completed a series of field trials in a few African countries, and it successfully removed more than 99% of the bacteria in water taken from contaminated sources, bringing it in line with U.S. tap water. The book's pages are imprinted with nanoparticles of silver and copper, which sterilize a wide range of microorganisms. The lead researcher says each page can filter about 100 liters of water before needing to be discarded. The team currently makes all the pages by hand, so their next step will be to find a way to automate production.
Rosetta Probe's Comet Reaches Closest Approach To the Sun
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The European Space Agency has released pictures taken by the Rosetta probe at comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko as it reached closest approach to the Sun. The comet has now travelled 750 million kilometers since Rosetta arrived, and the increased solar radiation has caused ices to sublimate and create jets of gas. "The activity reaches its peak intensity around perihelion and in the weeks that follow – and is clearly visible in the spectacular images returned by the spacecraft in the last months. One image taken by Rosetta's navigation camera was acquired at 01:04 GMT, just an hour before the moment of perihelion, from a distance of around 327 km." They've released bothstill images and animations of the comet's outgassing. "Rosetta's measurements suggest the comet is spewing up to 300 kg of water vapor – roughly the equivalent of two bathtubs – every second. This is a thousand times more than was observed this time last year when Rosetta first approached the comet. ... Along with gas, the nucleus is also estimated to be shedding up to 1000 kg of dust per second, creating dangerous working conditions for Rosetta." It's a fascinating, close-up look at a comet during its most volatile time.
How Microsoft Built, and Is Still Building, Windows 10
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Venturebeat story about how Windows 10 is different from previous versions because of the way it was designed, including 15 public preview builds, and how much work is still being done.

Windows 10 for PCs arrived two weeks ago. Thankfully, we don't need to wait years to say this will be a Microsoft operating system release like no other. The most obvious clue is not the fact that Windows 10 was installed on more than 14 million devices in 24 hours, that you can get it for cheap or upgrade to it for free, nor even that it ships with a digital assistant and a proper browser. No, the big deal here is that Microsoft is turning its OS into a service, and that means as you read these words, it's still being built. For the next few years, we'll be getting not just Windows 10 updates and patches, but new improvments and features. This is possible because Microsoft built this version very differently from all its previous releases.
Broken Windows 10 Update Causes Reboot Loops For Some Users
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The Guardian reports that some early adopters of Windows 10 are finding their computers stuck in a reboot loop after installing a particular update. KB3081424 is a cumulative update, packaging together a group of smaller ones for ease of installation. For some users, the update continually fails to finish installing before issuing a reboot command to the PC. "It downloads, reboot to install. Gets to 30% and reboots. Gets to 59% and reboots. Gets to 59% again and then states something went wrong so uninstalling the update. Wait a few minutes and reboot. Back to login screen," said Microsoft forum user BrettDM. "This happens without fail, every single time."
Lexus Unveils Its Working Hoverboard
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Lexus has revealed its eagerly anticipated "SLIDE" hoverboard, which uses magnetic fields to carry its rider without touching the ground. The board is confined to custom-built skatepark, remaining suspended due to the board's repulsion from a specially made magnetic track. Mark Templin, Executive Vice President at Lexus International said: "Embarking on this project, we set out to push the boundaries of technology, design and innovation to make the impossible possible. With this project we call 'SLIDE', we collaborated with partners who share our passion for creating enjoyment out of motion. Even through combining our technology and expertise, we discovered making a hoverboard isn't an easy process. We've experienced the highs and lows and have overcome a few challenges, but through mutual determination we have created a demonstration of our philosophy in design and technology to create Amazing in Motion."
Drone Drops Drugs Onto Ohio Prison Yard
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A report from CNN about an incident last week at a prison in Mansfield, Ohio, where a brawl broke out after a drone dropped a package of drugs into the prison yard. Prison staff had no idea at the time what caused ~75 inmates to gather and fight, but surveillance tapes clearly showed a drone hovering over the yard and dropping a package that turned out to contain tobacco, marijuana, and heroin. A spokesperson for the prison said this was not the first time they've had an incident involving a drone, but they wouldn't go into specifics.
LibreOffice 5.0 Released
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The Document Foundation has announced LibreOffice 5.0, the tenth major release since the launch of the project, bringing new features including Windows 10, Android and Ubuntu touch compatibility, superior interoperability features, an updated UI, and lots of under the hood improvements. For people still running OpenOffice it is probably time to move over.
FDA Approves First 3D-Printed Drug Tablet
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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has for the first time approved a 3D-printed pill for human consumption. The printing technique allows higher and more precise dosages to be layered into a smaller tablet size. This is an early step toward a new method of drug distribution. Right now, pills are made in a factory and shipped to hospitals. With 3D printers, hospitals could simply store a bulk supply of the drug in a pure form, and then print out tablets — containing whatever dosage they desire — as they need them. If patients needs to increase or decrease their dosage, the hospital can do so without changing the appearance of the pills, which could help those with memory impairments.
Goliath Gate: Archaeologists Uncover Entrance to Biblical City of Gath
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A massive gate unearthed in Israel may have marked the entrance to a biblical city that, at its heyday, was the biggest metropolis in the region.

The town, called Gath, was occupied until the ninth century B.C. In biblical accounts, the Philistines — the mortal enemies of the Israelites — ruled the city. The Old Testament also describes Gath as the home of Goliath, the giant warrior whom the Israelite King David felled with a slingshot.
Obama Unveils Major Climate Change Proposal
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Two years in the making, President Obama formally unveiled his plan to cut power plant emissionstoday, calling it the "single most important step that America has ever made in the fight against global climate change." The "Clean Power Plan" includes the first ever EPA standards on carbon pollution from power plants. CNN reports: "Under the plan, the administration will require states to meet specific carbon emission reduction standards, based on their individual energy consumption. The plan also includes an incentive program for states to get a head start on meeting standards on early deployment of renewable energy and low-income energy efficiency."
Privacy Alert: Your Laptop Or Phone Battery Could Track You Online
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Is the battery in your smartphone being used to track your online activities? It might seem unlikely, but it's not quite as farfetched as you might first think. This is not a case of malware or hacking, but a built-in component of the HTML5 specification. Originally designed to help reduce power consumption, the Battery Status API makes it possible for websites and apps to monitor the battery level of laptops, tablets, and phones. A paper published by a team of security researchers suggests that this represents a huge privacy risk. Using little more than the amount of power remaining in your battery, it is possible for people to be identified and tracked online. As reported by The Guardian, a paper entitled The Leaking Battery by Belgian and French privacy and security experts say that the API can be used in device fingerprinting.
In Windows 10, Ad-Free Solitaire Will Cost You $10 -- Every Year
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Wired UK reports that the pre-installed Solitaire on Windows 10 capitalizes on the long-cultivated addiction that some users have to the game with an interesting bargain: rather than being an ordinary included application like it used to be, what may be the world's most pervasive on-screen office time-sink of a game now comes with ads, unless a user wants to pay (by the month, or by the year) to remove those ads. Notes the linked piece: "To be entirely fair, this is the same as on the Windows 8 version, which wasn't installed by default but could be downloaded from the Windows Store."

At $1.49/month or $10/year, this might be enough to drive some people who otherwise would not to check out some of the free, open-source games out there; PySolitaire is one of many in this incomplete list.
Mozilla CEO: Windows 10 Strips User Choice For Browsers and Other Software
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Mozilla CEO Chris Beard has sent an open letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella complaining about the default settings in Windows 10. Users who upgrade to 10 will have their default browser automatically changed to the new Edge browser. Beard said, "We appreciate that it’s still technically possible to preserve people’s previous settings and defaults, but the design of the whole upgrade experience and the default settings APIs have been changed to make this less obvious and more difficult. It now takes more than twice the number of mouse clicks, scrolling through content and some technical sophistication for people to reassert the choices they had previously made in earlier versions of Windows. It’s confusing, hard to navigate and easy to get lost. ... We strongly urge you to reconsider your business tactic here and again respect people’s right to choice and control of their online experience by making it easier, more obvious and intuitive for people to maintain the choices they have already made through the upgrade experience.
A Robot That Can Walk and Jump On Water
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Researchers from Seoul University and Harvard have constructed tiny robots that can walk across the surface of standing water, and even jump into the air. The robots were designed to imitate the way pond-skimmer insects take advantage of surface tension to maneuver on top of still bodies of water. After studying the insects, the researchers found their legs started with a small amount of movement before gradually accelerating downward into a jump. The insects also sweep their legs inward during the jump to maximize the amount of time they stay in contact with the surface (abstract). "Using these principles, the researchers developed an ultra light robot made out of nickel titanium with a 2 centimeter long body inspired by origami. Its 5 centimeter long wire legs are curved at the tips like a real water strider's and coated with a material that repels water." Pictures of the robots are availablehere and here, as well as this animated gif.
Using HTML5 To Hide Malware
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SecurityWeek reports on the findings of a group of Italian researchers about web malware. They developed three new obfuscation techniques that can be used to obfuscate exploits like the one usually leveraged in drive-by download malware attacks. These techniques use some functionalities of the HTML5 standard, and can be leveraged through the various JavaScript-based HTML5 APIs. The research also contains recommendations about some of the steps that can be taken to counter these obfuscation techniques.
Four-legged Snake Fossil Stuns Scientists, Ignites Controversy
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Scientists have described what they say is the first known fossil of a four-legged snake. The limbs of the 120-or-so-million-year-old, 20-centimeter-long creature are remarkably well preserved and end with five slender digits that appear to have been functional (abstract). Thought to have come from Brazil, the fossil would be one of the earliest snakes found, suggesting that the group evolved from terrestrial precursors in Gondwana, the southern remnant of the supercontinent Pangaea. But although the creature's overall body plan—and indeed, many of its individual anatomical features—is snakelike, some researchers aren't so sure that it is a part of the snake family tree.
NASA Spies Earth-Sized Exoplanet Orbiting Sun-Like Star
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NASA has announced that a new Earth like planet has been discovered that may be the closest thing yet to a first true "Earth twin". Kepler 452b, is located 1,000 light years away, is 60% larger than Earth, and orbits Kepler 452 at a distance similar to that between Earth and the Sun. "It is the first terrestrial planet in the habitable zone around a star very similar to the Sun," says Douglas Caldwell, an astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California.
How Two Bored 1970s Housewives Helped Create the PC Industry
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One of the first significant PC companies was Vector Graphic. Founded in 1976, it was an innovator in everything from industrial design to sales and marketing, and eventually went public. And alone among early PC makers, it was founded and run by two women, Lore Harp and Carole Ely. Over at Fast Company, Benj Edwards tells the story of this fascinating, forgotten company.
Fossil Fuels Are Messing With Carbon Dating
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The carbon dating method used in determining the age of an artifact is based on the amount of radioactive carbon-14 isotopes it contains. The C-14 within an organism is continually decaying into stable carbon isotopes, but since the organism is absorbing more C-14 during its life, the ratio of C-14 to C-12 remains about the same as the ratio in the atmosphere. When the organism dies, the ratio of C-14 within its carcass begins to gradually decrease. The amount of C-14 drops by half every 5,730 years after death.

The fossil fuels we're burning are old — so old they don't contain any C-14. The more we burn these fossil fuels, the more non-C-14 carbon we pump into the atmosphere. If emissions continue as they have for the past few decades, then by year 2050 a shirt made in that year (2050) will have the same C-14 signature as a shirt worn by William the Conqueror a thousand years earlier.
Genetic Access Control Code Uses 23andMe DNA Data For Internet Racism
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People can defeat this approach by sending DNA samples from different people under their own name.
A GitHub project is using the 23andMe API for genetic decoding to act as a way to bar users from entering websites based on their genetic data — race and ancestry. "Stumbling around GitHub, I came across this bit of code: Genetic Access Control. Now, budding young racist coders can check out your 23andMe page before they allow you into their website! Seriously, this code uses the 23andMe API to pull genetic info, then runs access control on the user based on the results. Just why you decide not to let someone into your site is up to you, but it can be based on any aspect of the 23andMe API. This is literally the code to automate racism."
Smithsonian Using Kickstart Campaign To Save Armstrong's Moon Suit
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The Smithsonian is appealing for assistance to raise enough money to preserve Neil Armstrong's moon suit. The "Reboot the Suit: Bring Back Neil Armstrong's Spacesuit" campaign launched Monday on Kickstarter, marking 46 years since Armstrong's moonwalk in 1969. Smithsonian reports: "....on the anniversary of that 'small step for a man,' the Smithsonian Institution announced a plan of action that is, in its own way, a giant leap for funding the job with what the Institution’s first federal Kickstarter campaign. With a goal of raising $500,000 in 30 days—by offering incentives such as exclusive updates to 3D printed facsimiles of the space suit gloves—museum officials hope to be able to unveil a restored spacesuit by the time of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing four years from now, in 2019."
NASA Funded Study States People Could Be On the Moon By 2021 For $10 Billion
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The Houston Chronicle reported that NextGen Space LLC has released the results of a study that suggests that if the United States were to choose to do space in some new and creative ways, American moon boots could be on the lunar surface by 2021. The cost from the authorization to the first crewed lunar landing would be just $10 billion. The study was partly funded by NASA and was reviewed by the space agency and commercial space experts.
Company Aims To Launch Spacecraft On Beams of Microwaves
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The quest for cheap access to space, to make space travel as inexpensive as air travel, has eluded engineers, government policy makers, and business entrepreneurs from before the beginning of the space age. It has become axiomatic, almost to the point of being a cliché, that the true space age will not begin until launch costs come down significantly. Forbes reported about a company called Escape Dynamics that has a unique approach to the problem. The company proposes to launch payloads into low Earth orbit on beams of microwaves.
Berkeley Breathed Revives Bloom County Comic Strip After 25 Years
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Just as it was needed then, it is needed now (more than ever). NPR reports, "Fans of the well-loved comic strip Bloom County are celebrating ... cartoonist Berkeley Breathed issued the first panels of his satirical strip in decades. Breathed won a Pulitzer Prize for his work on Bloom County back in 1987; two years later, he quit producing it. ... It's unclear whether Breathed will syndicate his new work in newspapers; he recently recalled how an editorial dispute with a publisher had a direct role in his decision to quit cartooning in 2008. His Facebook postings, Breathed said earlier this month, are "nicely out of reach of nervous newspaper editors, the PC humor police now rampant across the web ... and ISIS." When Bloom County went idle in 1989, it was one of several clever and inventive comic strips, such as Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side, that were beloved by fans and yet were also comparatively short-lived. Today, devoted fans are treating its return as a small miracle." — The Washington Post adds, ""Honestly, I was unprepared for it," Breathed tells me of the public outpouring. "It calls for a bit of introspection about how characters can work with readers and how they're now absent as a unifying element with a society. "There is no media that will allow a Charlie Brown or a Snoopy to become a universal and shared joy each morning at the same moment across the country," Breathed continues. 'Maybe the rather marked response to my character's return is a reflection of that loss. A last gasp of a passing era.'"
Researchers Discover Largest Ever Dinosaur With Birdlike Wings and Feathers
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When we see birds winging their way across the sky, we are really looking at living dinosaurs—the only lineage of these mighty beasts that survived mass extinction. Yet before they went extinct, many dinosaurs sprouted wings themselves. Researchers now report finding the largest ever winged dino in China, a sleek, birdlike creature adorned with multiple layers of feathers all over its arms and torsothat lived 125 million years ago. The dino was about 1.65 meters long, a little longer than a modern condor, but at an estimated 20 kilograms, it was probably nearly twice as heavy as that bird. It almost certainly could not fly, however—an important confirmation that wings and feathers originally evolved to serve other functions like attracting mates and keeping eggs warm.
Plastic Roads Sound Like a Crazy Idea, Maybe Aren't
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The Dutch city of Rotterdam is looking at partnering with a company called VolkerWessels to test a prototype plastic road for safety and durability. "They envision pulling waste plastic out of the oceans, and then processing it into prefabricated sections of road with integrated utility channels and drainage. The composition and structure of the plastic makes it more durable than traditional asphalt, and VolkerWessels estimates that their plastic roads should last about three times as long as traditional roads." The roads are manufactured at a factory, and then hauled in a mostly finished state to where they'll end up. This could dramatically reduce the time during which drivers are inconvenienced by road construction efforts.
Data Store and Spying Laws Found Illegal By EU Court
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The EU High Court found the United Kingdom's data retention (and subsequent storage and analysis) and surveillance laws to be illegal throughout the EU, which subsequently would be an argument in courts in Australia and Canada against their own spy laws. This effectively brings back the rule of law that all EU citizens have a right to privacy that is at the Bill of Rights level, not an easily short-circuited legal basis. "The judges identified two key problems with the law: that it does not provide for independent court or judicial scrutiny to ensure that only data deemed 'strictly necessary' is examined; and that there is no definition of what constitutes 'serious offenses' in relation to which material can be investigated." It is uncertain that this would apply to U.S. spy laws, as a right of privacy is only inferred by U.S. high courts and is not written into constitutions as it is in the EU, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
Windows 10 Home Updates To Be Automatic and Mandatory
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Windows 10 Home users don't seem to have any way to disable automatic updates to the operating system. Throughout the testing of the Technical Preview, users noted that this option wasn't available, but it wasn't clear whether that was intended for the full release. Now that the suspected RTM build has been distributed, only two options are available regarding update installation: update then reboot automatically, or update then reboot manually. A quote from the EULA seems to support this: "The Software periodically checks for system and app updates, and downloads and installs them for you. ... By accepting this agreement, you agree to receive these types of automatic updates without any additional notice." The article notes, "This has immediately raised concerns. Today, if a Windows user finds that an update breaks something that they need, they can generally refuse that update for an extended period. ... For Windows 10 Home users, this isn't going to be an option. If a future update breaks something essential, the user is going to be out of luck." Windows 10 Pro users will be able to delay updates for some period of time, and Enterprise users will have update functionality similar to that of Windows 8.
Scientists Develop Nutritious Seaweed That Tastes Like Bacon
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According to a New Zealand Herald report, "Researchers at Oregon State University have patented a new strain of succulent red marine algae that tastes like bacon when it's cooked. The protein-packed algae sea vegetable called dulse grows extraordinarily fast and is wild along the Pacific and Atlantic coastlines. It has been sold for centuries in a dried form around northern Europe, used in cooking and as a nutritional supplement. ... Chris Langdon has created a new strain of the weed which looks like a translucent red lettuce. An excellent source of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants, the "superfood" contains up to 16 per cent protein in dry weight. ... It has twice the nutritional value of kale." Langdon says, "When you fry it, which I have done, it tastes like bacon, not seaweed. And it's a pretty strong bacon flavor."
9 best sites with free ebooks for Google Play
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In this post you’ll learn about best websites with free ebooks that you will be able to add to your Google Play Books library. You can also download eBooks and transfer to your eBook reader through iTunes or any other file transfer app.
How Apple Music Can Disrupt Users' iTunes Libraries
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Early adopters of Apple Music are warning others they could get more than they bargained for if they intend to download tracks for offline listening. Since Apple Music is primarily a streaming service, this functionality necessitates turning on iCloud Music for syncing purposes. The way Apple syncs files is to scan your library for known music files, and if it finds one, the service gives your account access to Apple's canonical copy. Unfortunately, this wipes out any custom edits you made to the file's metadata. For those who have put a lot of time into customizing their library, this can do a lot of damage to their organizational system. Apple's efforts to simplify and streamline the process have once again left advanced users with a difficult decision to make.
Brain-Inspired 'Memcomputer' Constructed
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"Inspired by the human brain, UC San Diego scientists have constructed a new kind of computer that stores information and processes it in the same place. This prototype 'memcomputer' solves a problem involving a large dataset more quickly than conventional computers, while using far less energy. ... Such memcomputers could equal or surpass the potential of quantum computers, they say, but because they don't rely on exotic quantum effects are far more easily constructed." The team, led by UC San Diego physicist Massimiliano Di Ventra published their results in the journal Science Advances.
Russian Cargo Ship Successfully Makes Orbit, Will Supply ISS
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A Russian Soyuz rocket successfully launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The rocket carried a Progress capsule containing 2,700kg of supplies for the International Space Station. It's a much-needed victory after a series of launch failures that saw ISS resupply missions from Orbital ATK, Russia, and SpaceX end in failure. "The station, a joint project involving 15 nations which is staffed by a crew of six astronauts and cosmonauts, currently has a four-month supply of food and water, NASA said. The arrival of the Russian cargo ship, and the planned launch of a Japanese HTV freighter in August, should replenish the station's pantries through the end of the year, NASA said. Friday's successful launch clears the way for three new crew members to fly to the station later this month."
North America Runs Out of IPv4 Addresses
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The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) has been forced to reject a request for more IPv4 addresses for the first time as its stock of remaining address reaches exhaustion. The lack of IPv4 addresses has led to renewed calls for the take-up of IPv6 addresses in order to start embracing the next era of the internet.
Windows 10 Shares Your Wi-Fi Password With Contacts
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The Register reports that Windows 10 will include, defaulted on, "Wi-Fi Sense" which shares wifi passwords with Outlook.com contacts, Skype contacts and, with an opt-in, Facebook friends. This involves Microsoft storing the wifi passwords entered into your laptop which can then be used by any other person suitably connected to you. If you don't want someone's Windows 10 passing on your password, Microsoft has two solutions; only share passwords using their Wi-Fi Sense service, or by adding "_optout" to your SSID.
When a Company Gets Sold, Your Data May Be Sold, Too
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A new report points out that many of the top internet sites have language in their privacy policies saying that your private data might be transferred in the event of an acquisition, bankruptcy sale, or other transaction. They effectively say, "We won't ever sell your information, unless things go bad for us." 85 of the top 100 websites in the U.S. (ranked by Alexa), had this sort of language, including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Hulu, and LinkedIn. (RadioShack did this recently.) "The potential ramifications of the fire sale provisions became clear two years ago when True.com, a dating site based in Plano, Tex., that was going through a bankruptcy proceeding, tried to sell its customer database on 43 million members to a dating site based in Canada. The profiles included consumers' names, birth dates, sexual orientation, race, religion, criminal convictions, photos, videos, contact information and more. Because the site's privacy policy had promised never to sell or share members' personal details without their permission, Texas was able to intervene to stop the sale of customer data, including intimate details on about two million Texans." But with this new language, users no longer enjoy that sort of protection. Only 17 of the top 100 sites even say they will notify customers of the data transfer. Only a handful allow users to opt out.
Tiny home village for homeless opens in Wisconsin
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Out of the Occupy Madison protests a cool idea was hatched: Building 98-square-foot homes for those without. The homes have a bed, kitchen, bathroom, storage and propane heat. Future residents take part in building the homes.
Black Hole Awakens After 26 Years
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For the first time since 1989, the black hole in V404 Cygni, a system comprising a black hole and a star, has reawakened, suddenly emitting high energy outbursts beginning on June 15. The outbursts are probably occurring because the black hole is gobbling up material that has fallen into it. While the 1989 outburst helped astronomers gain their first understand of the behavior of a black hole in a star system, this outburst will help them understand how such systems evolve and change over time. The European Space Agency (ESA) reports: "First signs of renewed activity in V404 Cygni were spotted by the Burst Alert Telescope on NASA's Swift satellite, detecting a sudden burst of gamma rays, and then triggering observations with its X-ray telescope. Soon after, MAXI (Monitor of All-sky X-ray Image), part of the Japanese Experiment Module on the International Space Station, observed an X-ray flare from the same patch of the sky. These first detections triggered a massive campaign of observations from ground-based telescopes and from space-based observatories, to monitor V404 Cygni at many different wavelengths across the electromagnetic spectrum."
Venus May Have Active Volcanoes
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The European Space Agency's Venus Express spacecraft has discovered hot lava flows on the surface of Venus, providing the best evidence yet that the planet may have active volcanoes. "[U]sing a near-infrared channel of the spacecraft's Venus Monitoring Camera (VMC) to map thermal emission from the surface through a transparent spectral window in the planet's atmosphere, an international team of planetary scientists has spotted localized changes in surface brightness between images taken only a few days apart (abstract)." Venus is fairly similar to Earth in size and composition, which suggests it has an internal heat source. One of the biggest mysteries about Venus is how that heat escapes, and volcanic activity could be the answer.
NASA Building Air Traffic Control System For Drones
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Last week, The Guardian got its hands on documents indicating NASA would be working with Verizon to monitor civilian and commercial drones around the U.S. using phone network towers. Now, NASA has confirmed its plans for a drone traffic control system, saying that it wants to help "define" this new generation of aviation. They are testing ways of communicating with drones in flight, both for providing helpful information to drones and collecting information about them. For example, the ATC system could send real-time weather updates to the drones, and inform them of no-fly zones. It could also monitor a drone's battery life and compare its flight path to surrounding terrain. NASA has gathered over 100 organizations to contribute to this project, and they're looking for more. "One of the biggest challenges to integrating UAS into the national airspace beyond line of sight is developing a system that enables the aircraft to see and be seen by other aircraft." This is where the involvement of Verizon and other telecoms is important. NASA is holding a convention next month to develop the idea further.
NASA Probe Reveals More Detail In Pluto's Complex Surface
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As NASA's New Horizons spacecraft careens through the solar system with Pluto in its cross-hairs, new detail in the dwarf planet's surface is popping into view at an ever increasing rate. Any images acquired from here on in are the most detailed images humanity has ever seen of Pluto and, a little over a month from its historic flyby, New Horizons is already giving us tantalizing glimpses of what appears to be a rich and complex little world. Take, for example, this most recent series of observations captured by the mission's Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), which were taken from May 29 to June 2. There appears to be large variations in surface albedo (reflectiveness), possibly indicating there are huge regions of varying composition.
Report: Evidence of Healthcare Breaches Lurks On Infected Medical Devices
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Evidence that serious and widespread breaches of hospital- and healthcare networks is likely to be hiding on compromised and infect medical devices in clinical settings, including medical imaging machines, blood gas analyzers and more, according to a report by the firm TrapX. In the report, which will be released this week, the company details incidents of medical devices and management stations infected with malicious software at three, separate customer engagements. According to the report, medical devices – in particular so-called picture archive and communications systems (PACS) radiologic imaging systems – are all but invisible to security monitoring systems and provide a ready platform for malware infections to lurk on hospital networks, and for malicious actors to launch attacks on other, high value IT assets.

Malware at a TrapX customer site spread from a unmonitored PACS system to a key nurse's workstation. The result: confidential hospital data was secreted off the network to a server hosted in Guiyang, China. Communications went out encrypted using port 443 (SSL), resulting in the leak of an unknown number of patient records. "The medical devices themselves create far broader exposure to the healthcare institutions than standard information technology assets," the report concludes. One contributing factor to the breaches: Windows 2000 is the OS of choice for "many medical devices." The version that TrapX obtained "did not seem to have been updated or patched in a long time," the company writes.
How the Red Cross Raised Half a Billion Dollars For Haiti and Built 6 Homes
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An investigation from NPR and Propublica into how the Red Cross spent the $500 million in relief funds they gathered to help Haiti after the country was devastated by an earthquake in 2010. They found "a string of poorly managed projects, questionable spending and dubious claims of success." While the organization claims to have built homes for 130,000 people, investigators only found six permanent homes they could attribute to the charity. The Red Cross admitted afterward that the 130,000 number included people who had attended a seminar on how to fix their own homes.

"Lacking the expertise to mount its own projects, the Red Cross ended up giving much of the money to other groups to do the work. Those groups took out a piece of every dollar to cover overhead and management. Even on the projects done by others, the Red Cross had its own significant expenses – in one case, adding up to a third of the project’s budget." The Red Cross raised far more money for Haiti than any other charity, but is unwilling to provide details on where the money went. In one case, a brochure that extolled the virtues of one project claimed $24 million had been spent on a particular area — but residents of that area haven't seen any improvement in living conditions, and are unable to get information from the Red Cross. The former director of the Red Cross's shelter program said charity officials had no idea how to spend the money they'd accumulated.
The Artificial Pancreas For Diabetics Is Nearly Here
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It's the tech that type 1 diabetics have long been waiting for: An implanted "closed-loop" system that monitors a person's blood-sugar level and adjusts injections from an insulin pump. Such a system would liberate diabetics from constant self-monitoring and give parents of diabetic children peace of mind. Thanks to improvements in glucose sensors and control algorithms, the first artificial pancreas systems are now in clinical trials.
Memory alloy bounces back into shape 10 million times
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Engineers have produced an alloy that springs back into shape even after it is bent more than 10 million times.

"Memory shape alloys" like this have many potential uses, but present incarnations are prone to wearing out.

The new material - made from nickel, titanium and copper - shatters previous records and is so resilient it could be useful in artificial heart valves, aircraft components or a new generation of solid-state refrigerators.
The Case For a Muon Collider Succeeding the LHC Just Got Stronger
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If you strike the upper atmosphere with a cosmic ray, you produce a whole host of particles, including muons. Despite having a mean lifetime of just 2.2 microseconds, and the speed of light being 300,000 km/s, those muons can reach the ground! That's a distance of 100 kilometers traveled, despite a non-relativistic estimate of just 660 meters. If we apply that same principle to particle accelerators, we discover an amazing possibility: the ability to create a collider with the cleanliness and precision of electron-positron colliders but the high energies of proton colliders. All we need to do is build a muon collider. A pipe dream and the stuff of science fiction just 20 years ago, recent advances have this on the brink of becoming reality, with a legitimate possibility that a muon-antimuon collider will be the LHC's successor.
MIT Trains Robots To Jump
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MIT just announced that its researchers have programmed a robotic cheetah that can leap over obstacles without a prompt from a human controller. The machine's onboard sensors rely on reflected laser-light to judge obstacles' distance and height, and use that data to fuel the algorithm for a safe jump. The robot's controlling algorithm takes into account such factors as the speed needed to launch its mass over the obstacle, the best position for a jump, and the amount of energy required from the onboard electric motor. As of this writing, the robot can clear 90 percent of obstacles on an open track. "A running jump is a truly dynamic behavior," Sangbae Kim, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, is quoted as saying in a university press release. "You have to manage balance and energy, and be able to handle impact after landing. Our robot is specifically designed for those highly dynamic behaviors." For years, some tech pundits have worried that robots and software will gradually replace human workers in key industries such as manufacturing and IT administration. Now they have something else to fret over: Robots replacing the world's hurdlers
Black Hole Plays Pool With Plasma
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The Hubble Space Telescope is revealing that there is a pool game in progress, with a long shot being played out on a cosmic scale. It appears that the first recorded shot was observed in 1992, while subsequent canon shots were recorded between 1994 an 2014. In actuality, the shots are plasma, the current player is a black hole, and the playing surface is galactic space itself. The BBC has a story on the observations and interpretations, while the journal Nature has the paywalled in-depth article. The current score is unknown, and one can only hope that there were no life forms involved in the collision.
SpaceX Cleared For US Military Launches
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The U.S. Air Force has given private rocket company SpaceX clearance to launch military satellites into orbit. This disrupts the lock that Boeing and Lockheed Martin have had on military launches for almost a decade. SpaceX will get its first opportunity to bid for such launches in June, when the Air Force posts a contract to launch GPS satellites.
Will Technology Disrupt the Song?
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The music industry has gone through dramatic changes over the past thirty years. Virtually everything is different except the structure of the songs we listen to. Distribution methods have long influenced songwriting habits, from records to CDs to radio airplay. So will streaming services, through their business models, incentivize a change to song form itself? Many pop music sensations are already manufactured carefully by the studios, and the shift to digital is providing them with ever more data about what people like to listen to. And don't forget that technology is a now a central part of how such music is created, from auto-tune and electronic beats to the massive amount of processing that goes into getting the exact sound a studio wants.
EU Drops Plans For Safer Pesticides After Pressure From US
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The European Union recently published plans to ban 31 pesticides containing chemicals linked to testicular cancer and male infertility. Those potential regulations have now been dropped after a U.S. business delegation said they would adversely affect trade negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. "Just weeks before the regulations were dropped there had been a barrage of lobbying from big European firms such as Dupont, Bayer and BASF over EDCs. The chemical industry association Cefic warned that the endocrines issue 'could become an issue that impairs the forthcoming EU-US trade negotiations.'"
Hubble Discovers a Fast-Aging Star Nicknamed "Nasty 1"
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Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, Astronomers have uncovered surprising new clues about a large, rapidly aging star whose behavior has never been seen before. The star is so strange in fact that astronomers have nicknamed it "Nasty 1," a play on its catalog name of NaSt1. Wolf-Rayet stars like NaSt1 are typically large, rapidly evolving stellar bodies that form by shedding their hydrogen-filled outer layers quickly, exposing a bright hot, helium-burning core. Nasty 1 is unique because it contains a disk like structure. "We were excited to see this disk-like structure because it may be evidence for a Wolf-Rayet star forming from a binary interaction," said Jon Mauerhan of UC Berkeley, lead author on the new Nasty 1 paper. "There are very few examples in the galaxy of this process in action because this phase is short-lived, perhaps lasting only a hundred thousand years, while the timescale over which a resulting disk is visible could be only ten thousand years or less."
Musical Organ Created From 49 Floppy Disk Drives
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A youth club in Germany, called Toolbox Bodensee, has created an unusual musical organ. It is constructed of 49 floppy disk drives all of which combine to play quite a unique sound. It has the ability to be played manually or act as a playback device. If you have a bunch of old floppy drives and want to assemble your own organ, the 3D print files are available for free download on Thingiverse.
CareFirst Admits More Than a Million Customer Accounts Were Exposed In Security Breach
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News, as reported by The Stack, that regional health insurer CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, has confirmed a breach which took place last summer, and may have leaked personal details of as many as 1.1 million of the company's customers: "The Washington D.C.-based firm announced yesterday that the hack had taken place in June last year. CareFirst said that the breach had been a 'sophisticated cyberattack' and that those behind the crime had accessed and potentially stolen sensitive customer data including names, dates of birth, email addresses and ID numbers. All affected members will receive letters of apology, offering two years of free credit monitoring and identity threat protection as compensation, CareFirst said in a statement posted on its website." Free credit monitoring is pretty weak sauce for anyone who actually ends up faced with identity fraud.
Oldest Stone Tools Predate Previous Record Holder By 700,000 Years
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The oldest stone tools ever found have been discovered by scientists in Kenya who say they are 3.3m years old, making them by far the oldest such artifacts discovered. Predating the rise of humans' first ancestors in the Homo genus, the artifacts were found near Lake Turkana, Kenya. More than 100 primitive hammers, anvils and other stone tools have been found at the site. An in-depth analysis of the site, its contents, and its significance as a new benchmark in evolutionary history will be published in the May 21 issue of Nature.
After a Year of Secret Field-Testing, Brain-Controlled Bionic Legs Are Here
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An Icelandic prosthetic-maker announced that two amputees have been testing brain-controlled bionic legs for over a year. The devices respond to impulses in the subjects' residual limbs, via sensors that were implanted in simple, 15-minute-long procedures. "When the electrical impulse from his brain reaches the base of his leg, a pair of sensors embedded in his muscle tissue connect the neural dots, and wirelessly transmit that signal to the Proprio Foot. Since the command reaches the foot before the wearer's residual muscles actually contract, there's no unnatural lag between intention and action." This is a huge step forward (sorry) for this class of bionics. It may seem like a solved problem based on reports and videos from laboratories, but it's never been exposed to real world use and everyday wear and tear like this.
Energy Dept. Wants Big Wind Energy Technology In All 50 US States
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Bigger wind turbines and towers are just part of what the U.S. needs in order to more effectively use wind energy in all 50 states.That was the thrust of a wind energy call-to-arms report called "Enabling Wind Power nationwide" issued this week by the Department of Energy. They detail new technology that can reach higher into the sky to capture more energy and more powerful turbines to generate more gigawatts. These new turbines are 110-140 meters tall, with blades 60 meters long. The Energy Department forecasts strong, steady growth of wind power across the country, both on land and off shore.
Microwave Comms Betwen Population Centers Could Be Key To Easing Internet Bottlenecks
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Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Duke University recently looked at the main causes of Internet latency and what it would take to achieve speed-of-light performance. The first part of the paper, titled Towards a Speed of Light Internet, is devoted to finding out where the slowdowns are coming from. They found that the bulk of the delay comes from the latency of the underlying infrastructure, which works in a multiplicative way by affecting each step in the request. The second part of the paper proposes what turns out to be a relatively cheap and potentially doable solution to bring Internet speeds close to the speed of light for the vast majority of us. The authors propose creating a network that would connect major population centers using microwave networks.
European Internet Users Urged To Protect Themselves Against Facebook Tracking
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Belgium's Privacy Protection Commission says that Facebook tramples on European privacy laws by tracking people online without their consent and dodges questions from national regulators. They have issued a set of recommendations for both Facebook, website owners and end users. Net-Security reports: "The recommendations are based on the results of an extensive analysis of Facebook's revised policies and terms (rolled out on January 30, 2015) conducted by the inter-university research center EMSOC/SPION, which concluded that the company is acting in violation of European law. According to them Facebook places too much burden on its users to protect their privacy, and then doesn't offer simple tools and settings to do so, and sets up some problematic default settings. They also don't provide adequate information for users to make informed choices."
Four Quasars Found Clustered Together Defy Current Cosmological Expectations
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Get a supermassive black hole feeding on matter, particularly on large amounts of cool, dense gas, and you're likely to get a quasar: a luminous, active galaxy emitting radiation from the radio all the way up through the X-ray. Our best understanding and observations indicate that these objects should be rare, transient, and isolated; no more than two have ever been found close together before. Until this discovery, that is, where we just found four within a million light years of one another, posing a problem for our current theories of structure formation in the Universe.
Arab Mars Probe Planned For 2020
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The United Arab Emirates has announced plans to launch a Mars mission in July, 2020. They want to send a probe (named "al-Amal",or "Hope") that will orbit the Red Planet for several years. It will analyze the Martian atmosphere, observing clouds and dust storms to help scientists figure out how water gradually escaped from Mars over a long time scale. [A]fter being inserted into an elliptical 55-hour orbit in the first quarter of 2021, Hope will carry out its nominal two-year science mission at altitudes ranging between 22,000 to 44,000 kilometers. From there, the mission will investigate how the lower and upper levels of the Martian atmosphere are connected. One goal is to create the first global picture of how the Martian atmosphere changes throughout the day and between seasons.
Wind Turbines With No Blades
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Wired has a profile of Spanish company Vortex Bladeless and their unusual new wind turbine tech. "Their idea is the Vortex, a bladeless wind turbine that looks like a giant rolled joint shooting into the sky. The Vortex has the same goals as conventional wind turbines: To turn breezes into kinetic energy that can be used as electricity." Instead of relying on wind to push a propeller in a circular motion, these turbines rely on vorticity — how wind can strike an object in a particular way to generate spinning vortices of air. Engineers usually try to avoid this — it's what brought down the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. But this Spanish company designed the turbine computationally to have the vortices occur at the same time along its entire height. "In its current prototype, the elongated cone is made from a composite of fiberglass and carbon fiber, which allows the mast to vibrate as much as possible (an increase in mass reduces natural frequency). At the base of the cone are two rings of repelling magnets, which act as a sort of nonelectrical motor. When the cone oscillates one way, the repelling magnets pull it in the other direction, like a slight nudge to boost the mast's movement regardless of wind speed. This kinetic energy is then converted into electricity via an alternator that multiplies the frequency of the mast's oscillation to improve the energy-gathering efficiency."
Biologists Create Self-Healing Concrete
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A team of microbiologists from the Delft University of Technology claims to have invented "bioconcrete" — concrete that heals cracks and breaks using bacteria. The goal was to find a type of bacteria that could live inside concrete and also produce small amount of limestone that could re-seal cracks. This is a difficult prospect because concrete is quite dry and strongly alkaline. The bacteria needed to be able to stay alive for years in those conditions before being activated by water. The bacteria also need a food source — simply adding sugar to concrete will make it weak. The scientists used calcium lactate instead, adding biodegradable capsules of it to the concrete mix. "When cracks eventually begin to form in the concrete, water enters and open the capsules. The bacteria then germinate, multiply and feed on the lactate, and in doing so they combine the calcium with carbonate ions to form calcite, or limestone, which closes up the cracks."
Scientists Discover First Warm-Blooded Fish
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The opah lives in the dark, chilly depths of the world's oceans, using heated blood to keep warm. It's the first fish found to be fully warm-blooded. Certain sharks and tuna can warm regions of their body such as swimming muscles and the brain but must return to the surface to protect vital organs from the effects of the cold. The opah on the other hand, generates heat from its pectoral muscles, and conserves that warmth thanks to body fat and the special structure of its gills. “It’s a remarkable adaptation for a fish,” says Diego Bernal, a fish physiologist at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.A team of microbiologists from the Delft University of Technology claims to have invented "bioconcrete" — concrete that heals cracks and breaks using bacteria. The goal was to find a type of bacteria that could live inside concrete and also produce small amount of limestone that could re-seal cracks. This is a difficult prospect because concrete is quite dry and strongly alkaline. The bacteria needed to be able to stay alive for years in those conditions before being activated by water. The bacteria also need a food source — simply adding sugar to concrete will make it weak. The scientists used calcium lactate instead, adding biodegradable capsules of it to the concrete mix. "When cracks eventually begin to form in the concrete, water enters and open the capsules. The bacteria then germinate, multiply and feed on the lactate, and in doing so they combine the calcium with carbonate ions to form calcite, or limestone, which closes up the cracks."
Kepler's "Superflare" Stars Sport Huge, Angry Starspots
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Astronomers studying stars like our sun that are known to generate powerful "superflares" have also discovered that these superflares are likely associated with monster "starspots." In 2012, using Kepler Space Telescope data — which is usually associated with the detection of exoplanets as they drift (or transit) in front of their host stars — astronomers were able to identify several hundred superflare events on a number of sun-like stars. These gargantuan events kicked out flares with 10-10,000 times more energy than our sun is able to muster. Keeping in mind that these stars are sun-like stars, what makes them such superflare powerhouses? Why is our sun such a featherweight in comparison? In an effort to understand the dynamics of superflare stars and perhaps answer these questions, astronomers from Kyoto University, University of Hyogo, the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) and Nagoya University turned to the High Dispersion Spectrograph on the Subaru Telescope, located atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii, to carry out spectroscopic measurements of 50 of Kepler's superflare targets. And they found that all the superflare stars possessed huge starspots that completely dwarf our sun's sunspots.
California Senate Approves School Vaccine Bill
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California state senators have passed a controversial bill designed to increase school immunization rates. SB277 would prohibit parents from seeking vaccine exemptions for their children because of religious or personal beliefs. California would join West Virginia and Mississippi as the only states with such requirements if the bill becomes law. "SB 277 is about increasing immunization rates so no one will have to suffer from vaccine-preventable diseases," said Sen. Ben Allen (D- Santa Monica) who coauthored the bill with Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento).
More Than 40% of US Honeybee Colonies Died In a 12-Month Period Ending In April
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The Agriculture Department released its annual honeybee survey Wednesday and it doesn't look good. More than 40% of U.S. honeybee colonies died in a 12-month period ending in April. While the precise cause of the honeybee crisis is unknown, scientists generally blame a combination of factors, including poor diets and stress. Some bees die from infestations of the Varroa mite, a bloodsucking parasite that weakens bees and introduces diseases to the hive. Environmental groups also point to a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids. In April, the Environmental Protection Agency said it would stop approving new outdoor uses for those types of chemicals until more studies on bee health are conducted.
Ice Loss In West Antarctica Is Speeding Up
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A new study just published on Antarctic ice loss by Christopher Harig and Frederik Simons of Princeton confirm West Antarctica is losing mass fast. The study used satellite measurements to determine the rate of mass loss. The lead author of the study told The Guardian: "It is very important that we continue long term monitoring of how mass changes in ice sheets. For West Antarctica in particular this is important because of how it is thought to be more unstable, where the feedbacks can cause more and more ice loss from the land over time. These strong regional accelerations that we see are very robustly measured and imply that Antarctica may become a major contributor to sea level rise in the near future. This increase in the mass loss rate, in ten years, accelerations like that show that things are beginning to change on human time scales."
MIT created a solar-powered machine that turns saltwater into drinking water
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MIT engineers have invented a new desalination machine that runs on solar energy. The project began in 2013 when the engineers went to India with the hopes of helping poorer villages and townships with their drinking water. The assumption was that they would figure out ways to rid these towns of microbes and other contaminants frequently found in poorer, older, water supplies.
Shape of the Universe Determined To Be Really, Really Flat
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You might imagine all sorts of possibilities for how the Universe could have been shaped: positively curved like a higher-dimensional sphere, negatively curved like a higher-dimensional saddle, folded back on itself like a donut/torus, or spatially flat on the largest scales, like a giant Cartesian grid. Yet only one of these possibilities matches up with our observations, something we can probe simply by using our knowledge of how light travels in both flat and curved space, and measuring the CMB, the source of the most distant light in the Universe. The result? A Universe that's so incredibly flat, it's indistinguishable from perfection. Which means it's probably even flatter than Kansas.
SpaceX Launch Abort Test Successful
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As we discussed yesterday, SpaceX launched a prototype this morning to test its Dragon passenger capsule in an aborted launch. The test was a success — the capsule separated cleanly, propelled itself to a safe distance, deployed its parachutes, and lowered gently down to a water landing, where it remained floating. You can watch video of the test on SpaceX's website — skip to 15:40 to get right to it. Externally, everything seems to have gone fine. I'm sure we'll hear in the coming weeks whether the downrange distance was ideal, whether they hit their splashdown target, and how the crash test dummy inside the capsule weathered the abort!
The Medical Bill Mystery
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Elisabeth Rosenthal writes in the NY Times that she has spent the past six months trying to figure out a medical bill for $225 that includes "Test codes: 105, 127, 164, to name a few. CPT codes: 87481, 87491, 87798 and others" and she really doesn't want to pay it until she understands what it's for. "At first, I left messages on the lab's billing office voice mail asking for an explanation. A few months ago, when someone finally called back, she said she could not tell me what the codes were for because that would violate patient privacy. After I pointed out that I was the patient in question, she said, politely: 'I'm sorry, this is what I'm told, and I don't want to lose my job.'" Bills variously use CPT, HCPCS or ICD-9 codes. Some have abbreviations and scientific terms that you need a medical dictionary or a graduate degree to comprehend. Some have no information at all. A Seattle resident received a $45,000 hospital bill with the explanation "miscellaneous."

So what's the problem? "Medical bills and explanation of benefits are undecipherable and incomprehensible even for experts to understand, and the law is very forgiving about that," says Mark Hall. "We've not seen a lot of pressure to standardize medical billing, but there's certainly a need." Hospitals and medical clinics say that detailed bills are simply too complicated for patients and that they provide the information required by insurers. But with rising copays and deductibles, patients are shouldering an increasing burden. One recent study found that up to 90 percent of hospital bills contain errors. An audit by Equifax found that hospital bills totaling more than $10,000 contained an average error of $1,300. "There are no industry standards with regards to what information a patient should receive regarding their bill," says Cyndee Weston, executive director of the American Medical Billing Association. "The software industry has pretty much decided what information patients should receive, and to my knowledge, they have not had any stakeholder input. That would certainly be a worthwhile project for our industry."
Opportunity Rover Reaches Martian Day 4,000 of Its 90-Day Mission
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Let's take a moment to appreciate the incredible engineering, scientific, and planning skill that went into the construction and deployment of the Opportunity rover. It landed on Mars with the goal of surviving 90 sols (Martian days), and it has just logged its 4,000th sol of harvesting valuable data and sending it back to us. The Planetary Society blog has posted a detailed update on Opportunity's status, and its team's plans for the future. The rover's hardware, though incredibly resilient, is wearing down. They reformatted its flash drive to block off a corrupted sector, and that solved some software problems that had cropped up. They're currently trying to figure out why the rover unexpectedly rebooted itself. Those events are incredibly dangerous to the rover's survival, so their highest priority right now is diagnosing that issue.

Fortunately, weather on Mars is good where the rover is, and it's still able to harvest upwards of 500 Watt-hours of energy from its solar panels. Opportunity recently completed a marathon on Mars and took an impressive picture of the Spirit of St. Louis crater, and the rover will soon be on its way to enormous clay deposits that could provide valuable information about where we can look for water when we eventually put people on Mars. As always, you can look through Opportunity's images at the official website.
Extreme Exoplanet Volcanism Possibly Detected On 55 Cancri E
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Using data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers have revealed wild atmospheric changes on a well studied exoplanet — changes that they suspect are driven by extreme volcanic activity. Over a period of two years, the team, led by University of Cambridge researchers, noted a three-fold change in temperature on the surface of 55 Cancri e. The super-Earth planet orbits a sun-like star 40 light-years away in the constellation of Cancer. It is twice the size of Earth and 8-times our planet's mass. 55 Cancri e is well-known to exoplanet hunters as the "diamond planet" — a world thought to be carbon-rich, possibly covered in hydrocarbons. But this new finding, published in the arXiv pre-print service, has added a new dimension to the planet's weird nature. "This is the first time we've seen such drastic changes in light emitted from an exoplanet, which is particularly remarkable for a super-Earth," said co-author Nikku Madhusudhan, of Cambridge's Institute of Astronomy, in a press release. "No signature of thermal emissions or surface activity has ever been detected for any other super-Earth to date."
Recent Paper Shows Fracking Chemicals In Drinking Water, Industry Attacks It
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A recent paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences turned up 2-Butoxyethanol from samples collected from three households in Pennsylvania. The paper's level headed conclusion is that more conservative well construction techniques should be used to avoid this in the future and that flowback should be better controlled. Rob Jackson, another scientist who reviewed the paper, stressed that the findings were an exception to normal operations. Despite that, the results angered the PR gods of the Marcellus Shale Gas industry and awoke beltway insider mouthpieces to attack the research — after all, what are they paying them for?
New Findings On Whale Tongues May Lead To Insight On Human Nerve Damage
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Researchers from the University of British Columbia have discovered that the largest animals alive – whales – have nerves in their tongues that can double in length and then recoil like a bungee cord. The researchers were studying specimens at a commercial whaling station in Iceland when they stumbled upon the discovery reported Monday in Current Biology. Researchers say it could have important implications for study into human nerve damage. "I had never seen a nerve like that," said Wayne Vogl, of UBC's Cellular and Physiological Sciences department.
Tesla's Household Battery: Costs, Prices, and Tradeoffs
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A look at the economics of Tesla's new wall-mounted household battery system, and concludes that it's "almost there," at least for many places in the world -- and seems to already make sense in some.

From his analysis:
For some parts of the US with time-of-use plans, this battery is right on the edge of being profitable. From a solar storage perspective, for most of the US, where Net Metering exists, this battery isn’t quite cheap enough. But it’s in the right ballpark. And that means a lot. Net Metering plans in the US are filling up. California’s may be full by the end of 2016 or 2017, modulo additional legal changes. That would severely impact the economics of solar. But the Tesla battery hedges against that. In the absence of Net Metering, in an expensive electricity state with lots of sun, the battery would allow solar owners to save power for the evening or night-time hours in a cost effective way. And with another factor of 2 price reduction, it would be a slam dunk economically for solar storage anywhere Net Metering was full, where rates were pushed down excessively, or where such laws didn’t exist. That is also a policy tool in debates with utilities. If they see Net Metering reductions as a tool to slow rooftop solar, they’ll be forced to confront the fact that solar owners with cheap batteries are less dependent on Net Metering. ... And the cost of batteries is plunging fast. Tesla will get that 2x price reduction within 3-5 years, if not faster.
High School Students Discover Pulsar With Widest-Known Orbit
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A team of high school students analyzed data from the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) and discovered a never-before-seen pulsar which has the widest orbit of any around a neutron star - one among only a handful of double neutron star systems. ... This pulsar, which received the official designation PSR J1930-1852, was discovered in 2012 by Cecilia McGough, who was a student at Strasburg High School in Virginia at the time, and De'Shang Ray, who was a student at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Baltimore, Maryland. These students were participating in a summer Pulsar Search Collaboratory (PSC) workshop, which is an NSF-funded educational outreach program that involves interested high school students in analyzing pulsar survey data collected by the GBT. Students often spend weeks and months poring over data plots, searching for the unique signature that identifies a pulsar. Those who identify strong pulsar candidates are invited to Green Bank to work with astronomers to confirm their discovery.
Bill Gates Owes His Career To Steven Spielberg's Dad; You May, Too
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On the 51st birthday of the BASIC programing language, GE Reports decided it was finally time to give-credit-where-credit-was-long-overdue, reporting that Arnold Spielberg, the 98-year-old father of Hollywood director Steven Spielberg, helped revolutionize computing when he designed the GE-225 mainframe computer. The machine allowed a team of Dartmouth University students and researchers to develop BASIC, which quickly spread and ushered in the era of personal computers. BASIC helped kickstart many computing careers, include those of Bill Gates and Paul Allen, as well as Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs.
New Solar Telescope Unveils the Complex Dynamics of Sunspots' Dark Cores
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The high-resolution images, taken by the New Solar Telescope (NST), show the atmosphere above the umbrae (the dark patches in the center of sunspots) to be finely structured, consisting of hot plasma intermixed with cool plasma jets as wide as 100 kilometers. These ground breaking images are being captured by scientists at NJIT's Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO). Sunspots are formed when strong magnetic fields rise up from the convection zone, a region beneath the photosphere that transfers energy from the interior of the Sun to its surface. At the surface, the magnetic fields concentrate into bundles, which prevent the hot rising plasma from reaching the surface. This energy deficit causes the magnetic bundles to cool down to temperatures about 1,000 degrees lower than their surroundings. The NST takes snapshots of the Sun every 10 seconds, which are then strung together as a video to reveal fast-evolving small explosions, plasma flows and the movement of magnetic fields.
Signs of Subsurface 'Alien' Life Found In Antarctica
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An airborne survey of a presumably dry Antarctic valley revealed a stunning and unexpected interconnected subsurface briny aquifer deep beneath the frozen tundra, a finding that not only has implications for understanding extreme habitats for life on Earth, but the potential for life elsewhere in the solar system, particularly Mars. The briny liquid — about twice as salty as seawater — was discovered about 200 miles underground in a region known as Taylor Valley. The aquifer is widespread, extending from the Ross Sea's McMurdo Sound more than 11 miles into the eastern part of valley. A second system was found connecting Taylor Glacier with the ice-cover Lake Bonney. But the survey, which covered 114 square miles, may have just uncovered the proverbial tip of the iceberg.
Audi Creates "Fuel of the Future" Using Just Carbon Dioxide and Water
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German car manufacturer Audi says it has created the "fuel of the future" made solely from water, carbon dioxide and renewable sources. The synthetic "e-diesel" was made following a commissioning phase of just four months at a plant in Dresden, Germany. Germany's federal minister of education and research, Dr Johanna Wanka, said she has already used the fuel in her Audi A8, and the company hopes to produce at least 160 liters of the crystal clear fuel every day in the coming months. "This synthetic diesel, made using CO2, is a huge success for our sustainability research," Wanka said. "If we can make widespread use of CO2 as a raw material, we will make a crucial contribution to climate protection and the efficient use of resources, and put the fundamentals of the 'green economy' in place."
Robots Step Into the Backbreaking Agricultural Work That Immigrants Won't Do
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Ilan Brat reports at the WSJ that technological advances are making it possible for robots to handle the backbreaking job of gently plucking ripe strawberries from below deep-green leaves, just as the shrinking supply of available fruit pickers has made the technology more financially attractive. "It's no longer a problem of how much does a strawberry harvester cost," says Juan Bravo, inventor of Agrobot, the picking machine. "Now it's about how much does it cost to leave a field unpicked, and that's a lot more expensive." The Agrobot costs about $100,000 and Bravo has a second, larger prototype in development. Other devices similarly are starting to assume delicate tasks in different parts of the fresh-produce industry, from planting vegetable seedlings to harvesting lettuce to transplanting roses. While farmers of corn and other commodity crops replaced most of their workers decades ago with giant combines, growers of produce and plants have largely stuck with human pickers—partly to avoid maladroit machines marring the blemish-free appearance of items that consumers see on store shelves. With workers in short supply, "the only way to get more out of the sunshine we have is to elevate the technology," says Soren Bjorn.

American farmers have in recent years resorted to brought hundreds of thousands of workers in from Mexico on costly, temporary visas for such work. But the decades-old system needs to be replaced because "we don't have the unlimited labor supply we once did," says Rick Antle. "Americans themselves don't seem willing to take the harder farming jobs," says Charles Trauger, who has a farm in Nebraska. "Nobody's taking them. People want to live in the city instead of the farm. Hispanics who usually do that work are going to higher paying jobs in packing plants and other industrial areas." The labor shortage spurred Tanimura & Antle Fresh Foods, one of the country's largest vegetable farmers, to buy a Spanish startup called Plant Tape, whose system transplants vegetable seedlings from greenhouse to field using strips of biodegradable material fed through a tractor-pulled planting device. "This is the least desirable job in the entire company," says Becky Drumright. With machines, "there are no complaints whatsoever. The robots don't have workers' compensation, they don't take breaks."
USGS: Oil and Gas Operations Could Trigger Large Earthquakes
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The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has taken its first stab at quantifying the hazard from earthquakes associated with oil and gas development. The assessment, released in a preliminary report today, identifies 17 areas in eight states with elevated seismic hazard. And geologists now say that such induced earthquakes could potentially be large, up to magnitude 7, which is big enough to cause buildings to collapse and widespread damage.

Update: 04/23 15:56 GMT by T : At the same time, the Oklahoma Geological Survey released a statement explicitly calling out deep wastewater injection wells to Oklahoma earthquakes, stating "The OGS considers it very likely that the majority of recent earthquakes, particularly those in central and north-central Oklahoma, are triggered by the injection of produced water in disposal wells."
Hubble Spots Star Explosion Astronomers Can't Explain
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The Hubble Space Telescope has spotted the explosion of a star that does not fit into any theory for stellar evolution. "The exploding star, which was seen in the constellation Eridanus, faded over two weeks — much too rapidly to qualify as a supernova. The outburst was also about ten times fainter than most supernovae, explosions that destroy some or all of a star. But it was about 100 times brighter than an ordinary nova, which is a type of surface explosion that leaves a star intact. 'The combination of properties is puzzling,' says Mario Livio, an astrophysicist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. 'I thought about a number of possibilities, but each of them fails' to account for all characteristics of the outburst, he adds." We can put this discovery on the bottom of a very long list of similar discoveries by Hubble, which this week is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its launch.
Cheap Gas Fuels Switch From Electric Cars To SUVs
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news that's sure to clash with Earth Day narratives: drivers who bought hybrid and electric cars are switching back to SUVs at a higher rate than ever. Quoting:

According to Edmunds.com, about 22 percent of people who have traded in their hybrids and EVs in 2015 bought a new SUV. The number represents a sharp increase from 18.8 percent last year, and it is nearly double the rate of 11.9 percent just three years ago. Overall, only 45 percent of this year's hybrid and EV trade-ins have gone toward the purchase of another alternative fuel vehicle, down from just over 60 percent in 2012. Never before have loyalty rates for alt-fuel vehicles fallen below 50 percent. ... Edmunds calculates that at the peak average national gas price of $4.67/gallon in October 2012, it would take five years to break even on the $3,770 price difference between a Toyota Camry LE Hybrid ($28,230) and a Toyota Camry LE ($24,460). At today's national average gas price of $2.27/gallon, it would take twice as much time (10.5 years) to close the same gap.
German Court Rules Adblock Plus Is Legal
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Following a four-month trial, a German court in Hamburg has ruled that the practice of blocking advertising is perfectly legitimate. Germany-based Eyeo, the company that owns Adblock Plus, has won a case against German publishers Zeit Online and Handelsblatt. These companies operate Zeit.de, Handelsblatt.com, and Wiwo.de. Their lawsuit, filed on December 3, charged that Adblock Plus should not be allowed to block ads on their websites. While the decision is undoubtedly a big win for users today, it could also set a precedent for future lawsuits against Adblock Plus and any other tool that offers similar functions. The German court has essentially declared that users are legally allowed to control what happens on their screens and on their computers while they browse the Web.
How False Color Astronomy Works
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When you look out at the nebulae in the night sky — especially if you're seeing them with your eye through a telescope for the first time — you might be in for a big surprise. These faint, fuzzy, extended objects are far dimmer, sparser and more cloud-like than almost anyone expects. Yet thanks to some incredible image processing, assigning colors to different wavelengths and adjusting the contrast, we can make out detailed structures beyond what even your aided eye could ever hope to perceive. Here's how the magic happens, and what it teaches us.
Rosetta Spacecraft Catches Comet Eruption
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On March 12, the Rosetta spacecraft was imaging Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from a distance of 75 kilometers (46 miles) and by pure chance it spotted an eruption of dusty material from the shaded nucleus. Long-duration spacecraft are essential if we are to fully understand the evolution of a comet as it gradually heats up during its approach to the sun. And it just so happens that Rosetta is always in orbit around 67P's nucleus, ready to spot any transient event that could erupt at any time on the surface This latest event focuses on the comet's shaded underside. It is assumed that some sunlight slowly heated an outcrop, providing enough energy to sublimate subsurface ices, ejecting vapor and dust as a jet. The transient jet was imaged and measured by Rosetta's scientific imaging system OSIRIS. There is also the possibility that a wave of heating passed through the icy material, eventually producing a more explosive jet event.
Copyright For Sale: What the Sony Docs Say About MPAA Buying Political Influence
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The linkage between political funding and the major copyright lobby groups is not a new issue as for years there have been stories about how groups like the MPAA and RIAA fund politicians that advance their interests. Michael Geist digs into the Sony document leak to see how the MPAA coordinates widespread buying of politicians with political funding campaigns led by former Senator Christopher Dodd to federal and state politicians. The campaigns include efforts to circumvent donation limits by encouraging executives to spend thousands on influential politicians, leading to meetings with Barack Obama, the head of the USTR and world leaders.
Comcast and TWC Will Negotiate With Officials To Save Their Merger
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Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable Inc. are slated to sit down for the first time on Wednesday with Justice Department officials to discuss potential remedies in hopes of keeping their $45.2 billion merger on track, according to people familiar with the matter. The parties haven't met face-to-face to hash out possible concessions in the more than 14 months since the deal was announced. Staffers at both the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission remain concerned a combined company would wield too much power in the broadband Internet market and give it unfair competitive leverage against TV channel owners and new market entrants that offer video programming online, said people with knowledge of the review.
Hacked Sony Emails Reveal That Sony Had Pirated Books About Hacking
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Sony has done a lot of aggressive anti-piracy work in their time, which makes it that much funnier that pirated ebooks were found on their servers from the 2014 hacks that just went on to WikiLeaks. Better yet, the pirated books are educational books about hacking called "Inside Cyber Warfare" and "Hacking the Next Generation" from O'Reilly publishers.
StarTalk TV Show With Neil DeGrasse Tyson Starts Monday
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Neil DeGrasse Tyson of StarTalk Radio and Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey has a TV show starting on Monday, April 20, at 11 p.m. ET/10 p.m. CT on NatGeo. Based on Dr. Tyson's prominent podcast of the same name, the hour-long, weekly series infuses pop culture with science, while bringing together comedians and celebrities to delve into a wide range of topics. Each week, in a private interview, Dr. Tyson explores all the ways science and technology have influenced the lives and livelihoods of his guests, whatever their background.
Breakthrough In Artificial Photosynthesis Captures CO2 In Acetate
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Researchers from Berkeley Lab and the U.S. Dept. of Energy have created an artificial photosynthetic process that capture carbon dioxide in acetate, "the most common building block today for biosynthesis." The research has been published in the journal Nano Letters (abstract). "Atmospheric carbon dioxide is now at its highest level in at least three million years, primarily as a result of the burning of fossil fuels. Yet fossil fuels, especially coal, will remain a significant source of energy to meet human needs for the foreseeable future. Technologies for sequestering carbon before it escapes into the atmosphere are being pursued but all require the captured carbon to be stored, a requirement that comes with its own environmental challenges. ... By combining biocompatible light-capturing nanowire arrays with select bacterial populations, the new artificial photosynthesis system offers a win/win situation for the environment: solar-powered green chemistry using sequestered carbon dioxide."
Newly Discovered Sixth Extinction Rivals That of the Dinosaurs
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Earth has seen its share of catastrophes, the worst being the 'big five' mass extinctions scientists traditionally talk about. Now, paleontologists are arguing that a sixth extinction, 260 million years ago, at the end of a geological age called the Capitanian, deserves to be a member of the exclusive club. In a new study, they offer evidence for a massive die-off in shallow, cool waters in what is now Norway. That finding, combined with previous evidence of extinctions in tropical waters, means that the Capitanian was a global catastrophe.
Spitzer Space Telescope Finds New Planet
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NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has teamed up with a telescope on the ground to find a remote gas planet about 13,000 light-years away, making it one of the most distant planets known. The discovery demonstrates that Spitzer -- from its unique perch in space -- can be used to help solve the puzzle of how planets are distributed throughout our flat, spiral-shaped Milky Way galaxy. Are they concentrated heavily in its central hub, or more evenly spread throughout its suburbs? 'We don't know if planets are more common in our galaxy's central bulge or the disk of the galaxy, which is why these observations are so important,' said Jennifer Yee of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a NASA Sagan fellow. Yee is the lead author of one of three new studies that appeared recently in the Astrophysical Journal describing a collaboration between astronomers using Spitzer and the Polish Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment, or OGLE."
World's Oldest Stone Tools Discovered In Kenya
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Researchers say they have found the oldest tools made by human ancestors—stone flakes dated to 3.3 million years ago. That's 700,000 years older than the oldest-known tools to date, suggesting that our ancestors were crafting tools several hundred thousand years before our genus Homo arrived on the scene. If correct, the new evidence could confirm disputed claims for very early tool use, and it suggests that ancient australopithecines like the famed 'Lucy' may have fashioned stone.
US Navy Researchers Get Drones To Swarm On Target
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The Office of Naval Research today said it had successfully demonstrated a system that lets small-unmanned aircraft swarm and act together over a particular target. The system, called Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology (LOCUST) features a tube-based launcher that can send multiple drones into the air in rapid succession. The systems then use information sharing between the drones, allowing autonomous collaborative behavior in either defensive or offensive missions, the Navy said.
Supernovae May Not Be Standard Candles; Is Dark Energy All Wrong?
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The accelerated expansion of the Universe — and hence, dark energy — was discovered by taking the well-understood phenomenon of type Ia supernovae and measuring them out to great distances. The results indicated that they were fainter than expected, and hence more distant, and hence the Universe's expansion must be accelerating. But new results have just come out, showing that supernovae may not be standard after all. Does this mean dark energy may not be real, or that it may just be slightly weaker than we previously thought?
Stars Form Near Milky Way's Supermassive Black Hole
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Scientists report that stars have likely formed near the supermassive black hole in the heart of the our galaxy. How does this happen, if a black hole exerts so much gravitational force that not even light can escape? Astronomers believe the black hole may actually facilitate the formation of these stars. According to study author Farhad Yusef-Zadeh, the gases and dusts constantly flowing toward black holes compress and heat up, creating enough disturbance to cause the materials to collapse and then form a star. Yusef-Zadeh speculates that in addition to stars forming near black holes, planets may form there, too. The disk around a protostar (a mass of gas and materials that form early in star formation) breaks off into clumps of matter, and when paired with the extreme force of a black hole, may cause the formation whole planets.
SpaceX To Try a First Stage Recovery Again On April 13
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In its next launch on Monday, SpaceX will once again try to safely land its first stage on an ocean barge, allowing the reuse of that stage in later flights. "Following first stage separation, thrusters flip the rocket so the engines are pointing in the direction of travel. First, there’s a boostback burn to refine the rocket’s trajectory, causing the rocket to fly through its own exhaust (the space shuttle's risky Return-to-Launch-Site abort scenario relied on a similar maneuver). While the vehicle is still traveling faster than the speed of sound, four grid fins deploy, steering the rocket as it plummets toward the ocean. An entry burn slows the rocket further, and landing legs unfold. A final engine burn settles the Falcon onto [the barge]." Monday afternoon is certainly going to be an exciting day for space cadets. First, at 4 pm (Eastern) the head of ULA will reveal the design of the company's new rocket. Then, at 4:33 pm (Eastern), SpaceX will launch Dragon to ISS while attempting to return the first stage safely.
The Last Time Oceans Got This Acidic This Fast, 96% of Marine Life Went Extinct
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The biggest extinction event in planetary history was driven by the rapid acidification of our oceans, a new study concludes (abstract). So much carbon was released into the atmosphere, and the oceans absorbed so much of it so quickly, that marine life simply died off, from the bottom of the food chain up. That doesn't bode well for the present, given the similarly disturbing rate that our seas are acidifying right now. A team led by University of Edinburgh researchers collected rocks in the United Arab Emirates that were on the seafloor hundreds of millions of years ago, and used the boron isotopes found within to model the changing levels of acidification in our prehistoric oceans. They now believe that a series of gigantic volcanic eruptions in the Siberian Trap spewed a great fountain of carbon into the atmosphere over a period of tens of thousands of years. This was the first phase of the extinction event, in which terrestrial life began to die out.
Obama Says Climate Change Is Harming Americans' Health
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The Washington Post reports on new comments from President Obama, who says global warming isn't just affecting the weather — it's harming Americans' health. He has announced steps government and businesses will take to better understand and deal with the problem. Obama said hazards of the changing climate include wildfires sending more pollution into the air, allergy seasons growing longer, and rising cases of insect-borne diseases. "We've got to do better in protecting our vulnerable families," said Obama. "You can't cordon yourself off from air."

Speaking at Howard University Medical School, Obama announced commitments from Google, Microsoft and others to help the nation's health system prepare for a warmer, more erratic climate. Google has promised to donate 10 million hours of advanced computing time on new tools, including risk maps and early warnings for things like wildfires and oil flares using the Google Earth Engine platform, the White House said. Google's camera cars that gather photos for its "Street View" function will start measuring methane emissions and natural gas leaks in some cities this year. Microsoft's research arm will develop a prototype for drones that can collect large quantities of mosquitoes, then digitally analyze their genes and pathogens. The goal is to create a system that could provide early warnings about infectious diseases that could break out if climate change worsens.
The Solar System Is Awash In Water
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NASA has published an article detailing the vast amount of water found on other worlds in our solar system. "There are several worlds thought to possess liquid water beneath their surfaces, and many more that have water in the form of ice or vapor. Water is found in primitive bodies like comets and asteroids, and dwarf planets like Ceres. The atmospheres and interiors of the four giant planets — Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune — are thought to contain enormous quantities of the wet stuff, and their moons and rings have substantial water ice. Perhaps the most surprising water worlds are the five icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn that show strong evidence of oceans beneath their surfaces: Ganymede, Europa and Callisto at Jupiter, and Enceladus and Titan at Saturn." They've released an infographic to accompany the article. It's also bolstered by new research from the Niels Bohr Institute, which confirmed that glaciers on Mars do contain a large quantity of water ice. These glaciers are separate from the ice caps, existing in belts closer to the planet's equator. This ice has a total volume of roughly 150 billion cubic meters — enough to cover the entirety of Mars' surface with one meter of ice (abstract).
Research Finds Shoddy Security On Connected Home Gateways
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Connected home products are the new rage. But how do you connect your Nest thermostat, your DropCam surveillance device and your Chamberlin MyQ 'smart' garage door opener? An IoT hub, of course. But not so fast: a report from the firm Veracode may make you think twice about deploying one of these IoT gateways in your home. As The Security Ledger reports, Veracode researchers found significant security vulnerabilities in each of six IoT gateways they tested, suggesting that manufacturers are giving short shrift to security considerations during design and testing. The flaws discovered ranged from weak authentication schemes (pretty common) to improper validation of TLS and SSL certificates, to gateways that shipped with exposed debugging interfaces that would allow an attacker on the same wireless network as the device to upload and run malicious code. Many of the worst lapses seem to be evidence of insecure design and lax testing of devices before they were released to the public, Brandon Creighton, Veracode's research architect, told The Security Ledger. This isn't the first report to raise alarms about IoT hubs. In October, the firm Xipiter published a blog post describing research into a similar hub by the firm VeraLite. Xipiter discovered that, among other things, the VeraLite device shipped with embedded SSH private keys stored in immutable areas of the firmware used on all devices.
The Arrival of Man-Made Earthquakes
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The New Yorker has a long investigative report on a recent geological phenomenon: man-made earthquakes. The article describes how scientists painstakingly gathered data on the quakes, and then tried to find ways to communicate the results — which are quite definitive — to politicians who often have financial reasons to disbelieve them. Quoting: "Until 2008, Oklahoma experienced an average of one to two earthquakes of 3.0 magnitude or greater each year. (Magnitude-3.0 earthquakes tend to be felt, while smaller earthquakes may be noticed only by scientific equipment or by people close to the epicenter.) In 2009, there were twenty. The next year, there were forty-two. In 2014, there were five hundred and eighty-five, nearly triple the rate of California. In state government, oil money is both invisible and pervasive. In 2013, Mary Fallin, the governor, combined the positions of Secretary of Energy and Secretary of the Environment. Michael Teague, whom she appointed to the position, when asked by the local NPR reporter Joe Wertz whether he believed in climate change, responded that he believed that the climate changed every day. Of the earthquakes, Teague has said that we need to learn more. Fallin's first substantive response came in 2014, when she encouraged Oklahomans to buy earthquake insurance. (However, many earthquake-insurance policies in the state exclude coverage for induced earthquakes.)"
A Robo-Car Just Drove Across the Country
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Nine days after leaving San Francisco, a blue car packed with tech from a company you've probably never heard of rolled into New York City after crossing 15 states and 3,400 miles to make history. The car did 99 percent of the driving on its own, yielding to the carbon-based life form behind the wheel only when it was time to leave the highway and hit city streets. This amazing feat, by the automotive supplier Delphi, underscores the great leaps this technology has taken in recent years, and just how close it is to becoming a part of our lives. Yes, many regulatory and legislative questions must be answered, and it remains to be seen whether consumers are ready to cede control of their cars, but the hardware is, without doubt, up to the task."
The Dystopian Lake Filled By the World's Tech Sludge
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Hidden in an unknown corner of Inner Mongolia is a toxic, nightmarish lake created by our thirst for smartphones, consumer gadgets and green tech. The city-sized Baogang Steel and Rare Earth complex dominates the horizon, its endless cooling towers and chimneys reaching up into grey, washed-out sky. Stretching into the distance, lies an artificial lake filled with a black, barely-liquid, toxic sludge. ... You may not have heard of Baotou, but the mines and factories here help to keep our modern lives ticking. It is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of “rare earth” minerals. These elements can be found in everything from magnets in wind turbines and electric car motors, to the electronic guts of smartphones and flatscreen TVs.
TrueCrypt Audit: No NSA Backdoors
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A security audit of TrueCrypt has determined that the disk encryption software does not contain any backdoors that could be used by the NSA or other surveillance agencies. A report prepared by the NCC Group (PDF) for the Open Crypto Audit Project found that the encryption tool is not vulnerable to being compromised. However, the software was found to contain a few other security vulnerabilities, including one relating to the use of the Windows API to generate random numbers for master encryption key material. Despite this, TrueCrypt was given a relatively clean bill of health with none of the detected vulnerabilities considered severe enough to lead "to a complete bypass of confidentiality in common usage scenarios."
Ankle Exoskeleton Takes a Load Off Calf Muscles To Boost Walking Efficiency
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We might have started off in the water, but humans have evolved to be extremely efficient walkers, with a walk in the park being, well, a walk in the park. Human locomotion is so efficient that many wondered whether it was possible to reduce the energy cost of walking without the use of an external energy source. Now researchers at Carnegie Mellon and North Carolina State have provided an answer in the affirmative with the development of an unpowered ankle exoskeleton."
Chinese Scientists Plan Solar Power Station In Space
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The battle to dispel smog, cut greenhouse gases and solve the energy crisis is moving to space. If news reports are to be believed, Chinese scientists are mulling the construction of a solar power station in a geosynchronous orbit 36,000 kilometres above ground. The electricity generated would be converted to microwaves or lasers and transmitted to a collector on Earth. If realized, it will surpass the scale of the Apollo project and the International Space Station and be the largest-ever space project.
SpaceX's New Combustion Technologies
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Getting a small group of human beings to Mars and back is no easy task, we learned at the recent GPU Technology Conference in San Jose hosted graphics chip and accelerator maker Nvidia. One of the problems with such a mission is that you need a very large and efficient rocket engine to get the amount of material into orbit for the mission, explained Adam Lichtl, who is director of research at SpaceX and who with a team of a few dozen programmers is try to crack the particularly difficult task of better simulating the combustion inside of a rocket engine. You need a large engine to shorten the trip to Mars, too....Not only do you need a lot of stuff to get to Mars and sustain a colony there, but you also need a way to generate fuel on Mars to come back to Earth. All of these factors affect the design of the rocket engine....As if these were not problems enough, there is another really big issue. The computational fluid dynamics, or CFD, software that is used to simulate the movement of fluids and gases and their ignition inside of all kinds of engines is particularly bad at assisting in rocket engine design. 'Methane is a fairly simple hydrocarbon that is perfectly good as a fuel,' Lichtl said. 'The challenge here is to design an engine that works efficiently with such a compound. But rocket engine CFD is hard. Really hard.'
Festo Reveals New Robotic Ants and Butterflies
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Every year around this time of year Festo builds some amazing robot or other — last year it was a kangaroo. What could it possibly do to top previous amazing devices? What about some even more amazing robotic insects. BionicANT is designed not only look good but to demonstrate swarm intelligence. The robot not only looks like an ant, but it works like one. The design makes use of piezo bending transducers rather than servos to move. As well as being able to move its six legs, it also has a piezo-activated pair of pincers. The second insect robot is a butterfly — eMotion. For flying machines these are incredibly lightweight at 32 grams. The bodies are laser sintered and the wings use carbon fiber rods. Two miniature servo motors are attached to the body and each wing. The electronics has a microcontroller, an inertial sensor consisting of gyro, accelerometer and compass and two radio modules. Flying time is around 3 or 4 minutes.
Material Made From Crustaceans Could Combat Battlefield Blood Loss
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A foam composed of a polymer derived from crustacean shells may prevent more soldiers from falling victim to the most prolific killer on the battlefield: blood loss. Pressure is one of the best tools that medics have to fight bleeding, but they can't use it on severe wounds near organs. Here, compression could do more harm than good. First responders have no way to effectively dam blood flows from these non-compressible injuries, which account for the majority of hemorrhagic deaths. The new foam could help stop bleeding in these types of injuries. It relies on chitosan, a biopolymer that comes from processed crustacean shells. By modifying the chitosan, the developers gave the material the ability to anchor blood cells into gel-like networks, essentially forming blood clots. The researchers dispersed the modified chitosan in water to create a fluid they could spray directly onto noncompressible wounds.
Robobug: Scientists Clad Bacterium With Graphene To Make a Working Cytobot
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By cladding a living cell with graphene quantum dots, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) claim to have created a nanoscale biomicrorobot (or cytobot) that responds electrically to changes in its environment. This work promises to lay the foundations for future generations of bio-derived nanobots, biomicrorobotic-mechanisms, and micromechanical actuation for a wide range of applications. "UIC researchers created an electromechanical device — a humidity sensor — on a bacterial spore. They call it NERD, for Nano-Electro-Robotic Device. The report is online at Scientific Reports, a Nature open access journal."
Elon Musk's SolarCity Offering To Build Cities, Businesses Their Own Grids
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Rooftop solar distributor SolarCity announced a new service where it will build a centrally-controllable power grid for cities, business campuses and even islands. Marketing its GridLogic service by calling attention to the recent uptick in natural disasters and the extended power outages that resulted from them, SolarCity said its "microgrids" are fully independent power infrastructures fed by solar panels with lithium-ion backup batteries (courtesy of Tesla). SolarCity claims its GridLogic program can provide electricity to communities and businesses for less than they pay for utility power and the facilities can still be connected to their area's utility power grid as an added backup.
First Prototype of a Working Tricorder Unveiled At SXSW
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The $10 million Tricorder X-prize is getting to the "put up or shut up" stage: The 10 finalists must turn in their working devices on June 1st for consumer testing. At SXSW last week, the finalist team Cloud DX showed off its prototype, which includes a wearable collar, a base station, a blood-testing stick, and a scanning wand. From the article: "The XPrize is partnering with the medical center at the University of California, San Diego on that consumer testing, since it requires recruiting more than 400 people with a variety of medical conditions. Grant Campany, director of the Tricorder XPrize, said he’s looking forward to getting those devices into real patients hands. 'This will be a practical demonstration of what the future of medicine will be like,' said Campany at that same SXSW talk, 'so we can scale it up after competition.'"
New Alzheimer’s treatment fully restores memory function for mice
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Australian researchers have come up with a non-invasive ultrasound technology [abstract] that clears the brain of neurotoxic amyloid plaques — structures that are responsible for memory loss and a decline in cognitive function in Alzheimer's patients.

Publishing in Science Translational Medicine, the team describes the technique as using a particular type of ultrasound called a focused therapeutic ultrasound, which non-invasively beams sound waves into the brain tissue. By oscillating super-fast, these sound waves are able to gently open up the blood-brain barrier, which is a layer that protects the brain against bacteria, and stimulate the brain’s microglial cells to move in. Microglila cells are basically waste-removal cells, so once they get past the blood-brain barrier, they’re able to clear out the toxic beta-amyloid clumps before the blood-brain barrier is restored within a few hours. The team reports fully restoring the memories of 75 percent of the mice they tested it on, with zero damage to the surrounding brain tissue. They found that the treated mice displayed improved performance in three memory tasks - a maze, a test to get them to recognise new objects, and one to get them to remember the places they should avoid.
How Space Can Expand Faster Than the Speed of Light
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You know the fundamental principle of special relativity: nothing can move faster than the speed of light. But space itself? That's not a "thing" in the conventional sense. Two years after coming up with special relativity, Einstein devised the equivalence principle, and thus began the development of general relativity, where space itself would have properties that changed over time, responding to changes in matter and energy. This includes the ability for it to expand, even faster than the speed of light, if the conditions are right.
New Jersey Removes Legal Impediment To Direct Tesla Sales
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Almost exactly one year after it was banned from selling its cars directly in New Jersey, Tesla will be back in business in the Garden State. Governor Chris Christie signed into law a bill this afternoon that reversed last year's ban. The new legislation comes with some limits. Tesla can only open a total of four direct sale dealerships and has to operate at least one service center. But it's a major win following a heated war of words that saw Tesla CEO Elon Musk compare local dealers to a mafia protection racket subverting the democratic process.
Gates: Large Epidemics Need a More Agile Response
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Writing in the NY Times about the recent Ebola crisis, Bill Gates says this disease has made the world realize we are not properly prepared to deal with a global epidemic. Even if we signed up lots of experts right away, few organizations are capable of moving thousands of people, some of them infected, to different locations on the globe, with a week's notice. Data is another crucial problem. During the Ebola epidemic, the database that tracks cases has not always been accurate. This is partly because the situation is chaotic, but also because much of the case reporting has been done first on paper.

There's also our failure to invest in effective medical tools like tests, drugs and vaccines. On average, it has taken an estimated one to three days for test results to come back — an eternity when you need to quarantine people. Drugs that might help stop Ebola were not tested in patients until after the epidemic had peaked, partly because the world has no clear process for expediting drug approvals. Compare all of this to the preparation that nations put into defense, which has high-quality mobile units ready to be deployed quickly.
Speaking a Second Language May Change How You See the World
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Where did the thief go? You might get a more accurate answer if you ask the question in German. How did she get away? Now you might want to switch to English. Speakers of the two languages put different emphasis on actions and their consequences, influencing the way they think about the world, according to a new study (abstract). The work also finds that bilinguals may get the best of both worldviews, as their thinking can be more flexible.
"Hello Barbie" Listens To Children Via Cloud
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For a long time we have had toys that talk back to their owners, but a new "smart" Barbie doll's eavesdropping and data-gathering functions have privacy advocates crying foul. Toymaker Mattel bills Hello Barbie as the world's first "interactive doll" due to its ability to record children's playtime conversations and respond to them, once the audio is transmitted over WiFi to a cloud server. In a demo video, a Mattel presenter at the 2015 Toy Fair in New York says the new doll fulfills the top request that Mattel receives from girls: to have a two-way dialogue. "They want to have a conversation with Barbie," she said, adding that the new toy will be "the very first fashion doll that has continuous learning, so that she can have a unique relationship with each girl." Susan Linn, the executive director of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, has written a statement in which she says how the product is seriously creepy and creates a host of dangers for children and families. She asks people to join her in a petition under the proposal of Mattel discontinuing the toy.
NASA Wants Your Help Hunting For Asteroids
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"Since the early 20th century, astronomers have relied on the same technique to detect asteroids — they take images of a section in the sky and look for star-like objects that move between frames. However, with an increase in sensitivity of ground-based telescopes, it has become increasingly difficult for astronomers to sift through the massive pile of data and verify every single detection. In order to increase the frequency of asteroid detection, including of those bodies that could be potential threats to our planet, NASA has released new software, developed in collaboration with Planetary Resources, Inc., capable of running on any standard PC. The software, which can be downloaded for free, will accept images from a telescope and run an algorithm on them to determine celestial bodies that are moving in a manner consistent with an asteroid."
NASA Launches Four Spacecraft To Study Earth-Sun Magnetism
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Late Thursday NASA used an Atlas rocket to put four new, identical spacecraft into orbit. "The quartet of observatories is being placed into an oblong orbit stretching tens of thousands of miles into the magnetosphere — nearly halfway to the moon at one point. They will fly in pyramid formation, between 6 miles and 250 miles apart, to provide 3-D views of magnetic reconnection on the smallest of scales. Magnetic reconnection is what happens when magnetic fields like those around Earth and the sun come together, break apart, then come together again, releasing vast energy. This repeated process drives the aurora, as well as solar storms that can disrupt communications and power on Earth. Data from this two-year mission should help scientists better understand so-called space weather."
Huge Ocean Confirmed Underneath Solar System's Largest Moon
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The solar system's largest moon, Ganymede, in orbit around Jupiter, harbors an underground ocean containing more water than all the oceans on Earth, according to new observations by the Hubble Space Telescope. Ganymede now joins Jupiter's Europa and two moons of Saturn, Titan and Enceladus, as moons with subsurface oceans—and good places to look for life. Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt, may also have a subsurface ocean. The Hubble study suggests that the ocean can be no deeper than 330 kilometers below the surface.
Earth Newly Discovered Sea Creature Was Once the Largest Animal On Earth
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Almost half a billion years ago, the largest animal on Earth was a 2-meter-long, helmet-headed sea creature that fed on some of the ocean's tiniest prey. The newly described species is one of the largest arthropods yet discovered, a class of animals that includes spiders and crabs. The well-preserved remains of the multisegmented creature are providing clues about how subsequent arthropods' legs may have evolved from the dozens of stubby flaps used to propel this beast through the water.
Billionaire Teams Up With NASA To Mine the Moon
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Moon Express, a Mountain View, California-based company that's aiming to send the first commercial robotic spacecraft to the moon next year, just took another step closer toward that lofty goal. Earlier this year, it became the first company to successfully test a prototype of a lunar lander at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The success of this test—and a series of others that will take place later this year—paves the way for Moon Express to send its lander to the moon in 2016. Moon Express conducted its tests with the support of NASA engineers, who are sharing with the company their deep well of lunar know-how. The NASA lunar initiative—known as Catalyst—is designed to spur new commercial U.S. capabilities to reach the moon and tap into its considerable resources.
New Evidence Strengthens NSA Ties To Equation Group Malware
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When researchers from Kaspersky Lab presented the Equation Group espionage malware, many in the security community were convinced it was part of an NSA operation. Now, Kaspersky has released new evidence that only strengthens those suspicions. In a code sample, they found a string named BACKSNARF_AB25, which happens to be the name of a project in the NSA's Tailored Access Operations. Further, when examining the metadata on the malware files, they found the modification timestamps were almost always consistent with an 8-5 workday in the UTC-3 or UTC-4 timezones, consistent with work based in the eastern United States. The authors also tended to work Monday through Friday, and not on the weekends, suggesting a large, organized development team. "Whereas before the sprawling Equation Drug platform was known to support 35 different modules, Kaspersky has recently unearthed evidence there are 115 separate plugins. The architecture resembles a mini operating system with kernel- and user-mode components alike."
Dry-ice Heat Engines For Martian Colonists
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Heat engines using the "Leidenfrost effect" can exploit the gas expansion as CO2 sublimates to drive turbines. "The technique has exciting implications for working in extreme and alien environments, such as outer space, where it could be used to make long-term exploration and colonisation sustainable by using naturally occurring solid carbon dioxide as a resource rather than a waste product. If this could be realised, then future missions to Mars, such as those in the news recently, may not need to be ‘one-way’ after all.

Dry ice may not be abundant on Earth, but increasing evidence from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) suggests it may be a naturally occurring resource on Mars as suggested by the seasonal appearance of gullies on the surface of the red planet. If utilised in a Leidenfrost-based engine dry-ice deposits could provide the means to create future power stations on the surface of Mars. " The research was published in Nature Communications, and one of the researchers published an explanatory article at The Conversation.
The Milky Way May Be 50 Percent Bigger Than Previously Thought
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A ring-like filament of stars wrapping around the Milky Way may actually belong to the galaxy itself, rippling above and below the relatively flat galactic plane. If so, that would expand the size of the known galaxy by 50 percent and raise intriguing questions about what caused the waves of stars. Scientists used data collected by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey to reanalyze the brightness and distance of stars at the edge of the galaxy. They found that the fringe of the disk is puckered into ridges and grooves of stars, like corrugated cardboard. "It looks to me like maybe these patterns are following the spiral structure of the Milky Way, so they may be related," said astronomer Heidi Newberg.

In other Milky Way new, a Cambridge team has found nine new dwarf satellites orbiting our galaxy. Some of them are definitely dwarf galaxies, and the others may be the same, or globular clusters.
Sugar Industry Shaped NIH Agenda On Dental Research
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The sugar industry convinced the U.S. National Institutes of Health that studies that might persuade people to cut back on sugary foods should not be part of a national plan to fight childhood tooth decay, a new study of historical documents argues. The authors say the industry's activities, which occurred more than 40 years ago, are reminiscent of the tobacco companies' efforts to minimize the risks of smoking.
Mental Health Experts Seek To Block the Paths To Suicide
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Experts and laymen have long assumed that people who died by suicide will ultimately do it even if temporarily deterred. Now Celia Watson Seupel reports at the NY Times that a growing body of evidence challenges this view, with many experts calling for a reconsideration of suicide-prevention strategies to stress "means restriction." Instead of treating individual risk, means restriction entails modifying the environment by removing the means by which people usually die by suicide. The world cannot be made suicide-proof, of course. But, these researchers argue, if the walkway over a bridge is fenced off, a struggling college freshman cannot throw herself over the side. If parents leave guns in a locked safe, a teenage son cannot shoot himself if he suddenly decides life is hopeless.

Reducing the availability of highly lethal and commonly used suicide methods has been associated with declines in suicide rates of as much as 30%–50% in other countries (PDF). According to Cathy Barber, people trying to die by suicide tend to choose not the most effective method, but the one most at hand. Some methods have a case fatality rate as low as 1 or 2 percent," says Barber. "With a gun, it's closer to 85 or 90 percent. So it makes a difference what you're reaching for in these low-planned or unplanned suicide attempts." Ken Baldwin, who jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge in 1985 and lived, told reporters that he knew as soon as he had jumped that he had made a terrible mistake. "From the instant I saw my hand leave the railing, I knew I wanted to live. I was terrified out of my skull." Baldwin was lucky to survive the 220 foot plunge into frigid waters. Ms. Barber tells another story: On a friend's very first day as an emergency room physician, a patient was wheeled in, a young man who had shot himself in a suicide attempt. "He was begging the doctors to save him," she says. But they could not.
Mars "Webcam" To Be Made Available For Public Use
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If your group can make a good use case you can control of the ESA's Mars Express webcam. Proposals by schools, youth groups and astronomy clubs are due by March 27. The Visual Monitoring Camera (VMC), is a low-resolution camera intended for visuals of the Beagle lander separation. In May, Mars will be in solar conjunction. Signals between Earth and Mars Express will be disrupted by the sun so for three days the VMC camera can be freely pointed at almost any target in its orbit.
Solar Impulse Plane Begins Epic Global Flight
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A record-breaking attempt to fly around the world in a solar-powered plane has got under way from Abu Dhabi. The aircraft — called Solar Impulse-2 — took off from the Emirate, heading east to Muscat in Oman. Over the next five months, it will skip from continent to continent, crossing both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans in the process. Andre Borschberg was at the controls of the single-seater vehicle as it took off at 07:12 local time (03:12 GMT). He will share the pilot duties in due course with fellow Swiss, Bertrand Piccard. The plan is to stop off at various locations around the globe, to rest and to carry out maintenance, and also to spread a campaigning message about clean technologies.
The Origin of Life and the Hidden Role of Quantum Criticality
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One of the great puzzles of biology is how the molecular machinery of life is so finely coordinated. Even the simplest cells are complex three dimensional biochemical factories in which a dazzling array of machines pump, push, copy, and compute in a dance of extraordinarily detailed complexity. Indeed, it is hard to imagine how the ordinary processes of electron transport allow this complexity to emerge given the losses that arise in much simpler circuits. Now a group of researchers led by Stuart Kauffmann have discovered that the electronic properties of biomolecules are entirely different to those of ordinary conductors. It turns out that most biomolecules exist in an exotic state called quantum criticality that sits on the knife edge between conduction and insulation. In other words, biomolecules belong to an entirely new class of conductor that is not bound by the ordinary rules of electron transport. Of course, organic molecules can be ordinary conductors or insulators and the team have found a few biomolecules that fall into these categories. But evolution seems to have mainly selected biomolecules that are quantum critical, implying that that this property must confer some evolutionary advantage. Exactly what this could be isn't yet clear but it must play an important role in the machinery of life and its origin.
New Images From Mangalyaan
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Indian scientists have released a new set of color images taken by their Mars orbiter, Mangalyaan. Arsia Mons is one of the three giant volcanoes to the east of Mars' biggest volcano, Olympus Mons. Arsia Mons is important for future manned colonization, as there are known caves on its western flanks. In addition, those western flanks show solid evidence of past glaciers, which means that it is very likely that those caves will harbor significant quantities of water-ice, making settlement much easier.
Tiny pop-up "cell playgrounds" fold themselves
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US researchers are building tiny, 3D electronic scaffolds with an unusual new technique, aimed at combining biological and electronic systems.
Oldest Human Fossil Fills In 2.8-Million-Year-Old Gap In Evolution
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Archaeologists have unearthed a human jawbone—with teeth-- that is believed to be the oldest remains ever found from early humans. It belonged to the earliest specimen of Homo and dates back 2.8 million years. From NPR: "Although it's risky to say you've got the first or oldest of anything, Brian Villmoare, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, is sure he and his team have the earliest specimen of Homo, the human genus. 'Oh, yeah, it definitely is,' he says. 'We were looking for it — and by miraculous chance we happened to find it.' Villmoare and an international team from the U.S. and Ethiopia found a lower jaw with five teeth in a region of Ethiopia called Afar. They were working a hill that was full of fossils. 'I was on the other side of the hill,' he recalls, 'and they said, 'Brian! Brian! Come over here.' The partial jawbone — just the left side – was lying on the ground, having eroded out of the hill. Several dating methods confirmed its age as roughly 400,000 years older than the previous record for a human-related fossil."
Hubble Discovers Quadruple Lensed Ancient Supernova
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Astronomer Patrick Kelly, with the University of California Berkeley, and colleagues report this week about four different routes light from an ancient supernova took to reach the Hubble telescope after being deflected around an intervening elliptical galaxy. The phenomenon is known as an Einstein cross. "Basically, we get to see the supernova four times and measure the time delays between its arrival in the different images, hopefully learning something about the supernova and the kind of star it exploded from, as well as about the gravitational lenses," Kelly said in a statement. The supernova will appear again in the next 10 years, as its light takes different paths around and through the gravitational lens.
Inside the Weird World of 3D Printed Body Parts
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Last November a news report in Russia Today sent a shudder of excitement through the tech blogs that cover 3D printing: an eccentric Russian provocateur claimed he would this month start printing functioning thyroids. Tech reporter Andrew Leonard set out to fact-check that claim, and along the way discovered an unlikely relationship between a Russian mad scientist and the U.S.'s most advanced, most respected 3d bioprinting companies—TeVido, which aims to 3D print custom nipples, and Organovo, which sells samples of 3D printed liver tissue. In the field of 3D printing, the line between science fiction and peer-reviewed research is very, very thin.
NASA Ames Reproduces the Building Blocks of Life In Laboratory
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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.
Massive Exoplanet Evolved In Extreme 4-Star System
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"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.
US Air Traffic Control System Is Riddled With Vulnerabilities
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A recently released report (PDF) by the U.S. Government Accountability Office has revealed that despite some improvements, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) still needs to quash significant security control weaknesses that threaten the agency's ability to ensure the safe and uninterrupted operation of the national airspace system (NAS). The report found that while the "FAA established policies and procedures for controlling access to NAS systems and for configuring its systems securely, and it implemented firewalls and other boundary protection controls to protect the operational NAS environment [...] a significant number of weaknesses remain in the technical controls—including access controls, change controls, and patch management—that protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of its air traffic control systems."
Magic 'metamaterials' storm physics
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The hot topic at a major US conference is materials that can be designed with surprising properties, from programmable rubber to springy ceramics.
Supreme Court Gives Tacit Approval To Warrantless DNA Collection
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On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review a case involving the conviction of a man based solely on the analysis of his "inadvertently shed" DNA. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) argues that this tacit approval of the government's practice of collecting anyone's DNA anywhere without a warrant will lead to a future in which people's DNA are "entered into and checked against DNA databases and used to conduct pervasive surveillance."
Astronomers Find an Old-Looking Galaxy In the Early Universe
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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.
World's First Lagoon Power Plants Unveiled In UK
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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.
SpaceX Falcon 9 Launches Dual Satellite Mission
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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%."
Mysterious Siberian Crater Is Just One of Many
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A Washington Post report: In the middle of last summer came news of a bizarre occurrence no one could explain. Seemingly out of nowhere, a massive crater appeared in one of the planet's most inhospitable lands. Early estimates said the crater, nestled in a land called "the ends of the Earth" where temperatures can sink far below zero, yawned nearly 100 feet in diameter. The saga deepened. The Siberian crater wasn't alone. There were two more, ratcheting up the tension in a drama that hit its climax as a probable explanation surfaced. Global warming had thawed the permafrost, which had caused methane trapped inside the icy ground to explode.

Now, however, researchers fear there are more craters than anyone knew — and the repercussions could be huge. Russian scientists have now spotted a total of seven craters, five of which are in the Yamal Peninsula. Two of those holes have since turned into lakes. And one giant crater is rimmed by a ring of at least 20 mini-craters, the Siberian Times reported.
Portland Now Generates Electricity From Turbines Installed In City Water Pipes
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You’d be forgiven if the phrase “Portland goes green with innovative water pipes” doesn’t immediately call to mind thoughts of civil engineering and hydro-electric power. And yet, that’s exactly what Oregon’s largest city has done by partnering with a company called Lucid Energy to generate clean electricity from the water already flowing under its streets and through its pipes.
Lawmakers Seek Information On Funding For Climate Change Critics
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John Schwartz reports at the NY Times that prominent members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate are demanding information from universities, companies and trade groups about funding for scientists who publicly dispute widely held views on the causes and risks of climate change. In letters sent to seven universities, Representative Raúl M. Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat who is the ranking member of the House committee on natural resources, sent detailed requests to the academic employers of scientists who had testified before Congress about climate change. "My colleagues and I cannot perform our duties if research or testimony provided to us is influenced by undisclosed financial relationships." Grijalva asked for each university's policies on financial disclosure and the amount and sources of outside funding for each scholar, "communications regarding the funding" and "all drafts" of testimony. Meanwhile Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, Barbara Boxer of California and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. sent 100 letters to fossil fuel companies, trade groups and other organizations asking about their funding of climate research and advocacy asking for responses by April 3. "Corporate special interests shouldn't be able to secretly peddle the best junk science money can buy," said Senator Markey, denouncing what he called "denial-for-hire operations."

The letters come after evidence emerged over the weekend that Wei-Hock Soon, known as Willie, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, had failed to disclose the industry funding for his academic work. The documents also included correspondence between Dr. Soon and the companies who funded his work in which he referred to his papers and testimony as "deliverables." Soon accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work. "What it shows is the continuation of a long-term campaign by specific fossil-fuel companies and interests to undermine the scientific consensus on climate change," says Kert Davies.
12-Billion-Solar-Mass Black Hole Discovered
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A team of astronomers has discovered what is, in galactic terms, a monstrous baby: a gigantic black hole of 12 billion solar masses in a barely newborn galaxy, just 875 million years after the big bang. It's roughly 3000 times the size of our Milky Way's central black hole. To have grown to such a size in so short a time, it must have been munching matter at close to the maximum physically possible rate for most of its existence. Its large size and rate of consumption also makes it the brightest object in that distant era, and astronomers can use its bright light to study the composition of the early universe: how much of the original hydrogen and helium from the big bang had been forged into heavier elements in the furnaces of stars.
The Peculiar Economics of Developing New Antibiotics
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Every year at least two million people are infected with bacteria that can't be wiped out with antibiotics but the number of F.D.A.-approved antibiotics has decreased steadily in the past two decades. Now.Ezekiel J. Emanuel writes at the NYT that the problem with the development of new antibiotics is profitability. "There's no profit in it, and therefore the research has dried up, but meanwhile bacterial resistance has increased inexorably and there's still a lot of inappropriate use of antibiotics out there," says Ken Harvey. Unlike drugs for cholesterol or high blood pressure, or insulin for diabetes, which are taken every day for life, antibiotics tend to be given for a short time so profits have to be made on brief usage. "Even though antibiotics are lifesaving, they do not command a premium price in the marketplace," says Emanuel. "As a society we seem willing to pay $100,000 or more for cancer drugs that cure no one and at best add weeks or a few months to life. We are willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars for knee surgery that, at best, improves function but is not lifesaving. So why won't we pay $10,000 for a lifesaving antibiotic?"

Emanuel says that we need to use prize money as an incentive. "What if the United States government — maybe in cooperation with the European Union and Japan — offered a $2 billion prize to the first five companies or academic centers that develop and get regulatory approval for a new class of antibiotics?" Because it costs at least $1 billion to develop a new drug, the prize money could provide a 100 percent return — even before sales. "From the government perspective, such a prize would be highly efficient: no payment for research that fizzles. Researchers win only with an approved product. Even if they generated just one new antibiotic class per year, the $2-billion-per-year payment would be a reasonable investment for a problem that costs the health care system $20 billion per year." Unless payers and governments are willing to provide favorable pricing for such a drug, the big companies are going to focus their R&D investments in areas like cancer, depression, and heart disease where the return-on-investments are much higher.
It's Official: NSA Spying Is Hurting the US Tech Economy
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China is backing away from U.S. tech brands for state purchases as NSA revelations, according to Reuters, which confirms what many US technology companies have been saying for the past year: the activities by the NSA are harming their businesses in crucial growth markets, including China. From the article: "A new report confirmed key brands, including Cisco, Apple, Intel, and McAfee -- among others -- have been dropped from the Chinese government's list of authorized brands, a Reuters report said Wednesday. The number of approved foreign technology brands fell by a third, based on an analysis of the procurement list. Less than half of those companies with security products remain on the list."
Republicans Back Down, FCC To Enforce Net Neutrality Rules
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Republican resistance has ended for the FCC's plans to regulate the internet as a public utility. FCC commissioners are working out the final details, and they're expected to approve the plan themselves on Thursday. "The F.C.C. plan would let the agency regulate Internet access as if it is a public good.... In addition, it would ban the intentional slowing of the Internet for companies that refuse to pay broadband providers. The plan would also give the F.C.C. the power to step in if unforeseen impediments are thrown up by the handful of giant companies that run many of the country's broadband and wireless networks." Dave Steer of the Mozilla Foundation said, "We've been outspent, outlobbied. We were going up against the second-biggest corporate lobby in D.C., and it looks like we've won."
Giant Asian Gerbils May Have Caused the Black Death
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Rats, long believed to be the scourge that brought the Black Death to 14th-century Europe, may not be the disease-bearing scoundrels we thought they were. Scientists have shifted blame for the medieval pandemic responsible for millions of deaths to a new furry menace: giant gerbils from Asia. University of Oslo researchers, working with Swiss government scientists, say a "pulse" of bubonic plague strains arrived sporadically from Asia. They posit the Yersinia pestis bacterium was likely carried over the Silk Road via fleas on the giant gerbils during intermittent warm spells. The fleas could have then transmitted the disease to humans. The Black Death is believed to have killed up to 200 million people in Europe. Though very rare today, cases of the plague still arise in Africa, Asia, the Americas and parts of the former Soviet Union, with the World Health Organization reporting 783 cases worldwide in 2013, including 126 deaths.
Mummified Monk Found Inside 1,000-Year-Old Buddha Statue
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Using a CT scanner, scientists and hospital staff at the Meander Medical Center in the Netherlands have discovered the mummified body of a Chinese monk inside a statue of Buddha. The monk is believed to have lived around the year 1100. From the article: "Glowing through the statue's golden cast, the human skeleton is believed to belong to Buddhist master Liu Quan, a member of the Chinese Meditation School. To further investigate the mummy, the researchers took the statue to the Meander Medical Center in Amersfoort and carried out an endoscopy and additional CT scans. They found out that Liu Quan's internal organs had been removed and replaced with scripts covered in Chinese writing. The museum speculates Liu Quan may have 'self-mummified' in order to become a 'living Buddha.'
Ancient and Modern People Followed Same Mathematical Rule To Build Cities
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A study of archeological data from ancient Mexican settlements reveals remarkable similarities between pre-Colombian cities and modern ones, lending support to the idea that urban spaces are shaped by universal social behaviors. Sure, each city has its own local quirks, architecture, language and cuisine. But recently, some theoretical scientists have started to find there are universal laws that shape all urban spaces. And a new study suggests the same mathematical rules might apply to ancient settlements, too. Using archaeological data from the ruins of Tenochtitlan and thousands of other sites around it in Mexico, researchers found that private houses and public monuments were built in predictable ways.
Samsung Smart TVs Don't Encrypt the Voice Data They Collect
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A week ago, the revelation that Samsung collects words spoken by consumers when they use the voice recognition feature in their smart TVs enraged privacy advocates, since according to Samsung's own privacy policy those words can in some cases include personal or sensitive information. Following the incident, David Lodge, a researcher with a U.K.-based security firm called Pen Test Partners, intercepted and analyzed the Internet traffic generated by a Samsung smart TV and found that Samsung does send captured voice data to a remote server using a connection on port 443, a port typically associated with encrypted HTTPS, but that the data was not encrypted. "It's not even HTTP data, it's a mix of XML and some custom binary data packet," said Lodge in a blog post.
Researchers Block HIV Infection In Monkeys With Artificial Protein
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Immunologists have developed a synthetic molecule that's able to attach to HIV and prevent it from interacting with healthy cells. "HIV infects white blood cells by sequentially attaching to two receptors on their surfaces. First, HIV's own surface protein, gp120, docks on the cell's CD4 receptor. This attachment twists gp120 such that it exposes a region on the virus that can attach to the second cellular receptor, CCR5. The new construct combines a piece of CD4 with a smidgen of CCR5 and attaches both receptors to a piece of an antibody. In essence, the AIDS virus locks onto the construct, dubbed eCD4-Ig, as though it were attaching to a cell and thus is neutralized." The new compound was tested in monkeys. After successively higher injections of HIV, all four monkeys who received the compound beforehand stayed from free infection. Any potential medical treatment is still a ways off — the researchers plan more trials in monkeys before involving humans in the testing.
Oxford University Researchers List 12 Global Risks To Human Civilization
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The 12 greatest threats to civilization have been established by Oxford University scientists, with nuclear war and extreme climate change topping the list. Published by the Global Challenges Foundation, the report explores the 12 most likely ways civilization could end. "[This research] is about how a better understanding of the magnitude of the challenges can help the world to address the risks it faces, and can help to create a path towards more sustainable development," the study's authors said. "It is a scientific assessment about the possibility of oblivion, certainly, but even more it is a call for action based on the assumption that humanity is able to rise to challenges and turn them into opportunities."
Mysterious Martian Plumes Discovered By Amateur Astronomers
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Amateur astronomers have spotted two clouds coming from the surface of Mars that are a mystery to the professionals. From Discovery: "The plumes extended over 500- to 1,000 kilometers (311- to 621 miles) in both north-south and east-west directions and changed in appearance daily. They were detected as the sun breached Mars' horizon in the morning, but not when it set in the evening. 'Remarkably ... the features changed rapidly, their shapes going from double blob protrusions to pillars or finger-plume-like morphologies,' scientists investigating the sightings wrote in a paper published in this week's Nature."
Drones and Satellites Spot Lost Civilizations In Unlikely Places
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What do the Sahara desert and the Amazon rainforest have in common? Until recently, archaeologists would have told you they were both inhospitable environments devoid of large-scale human settlements. But they were wrong. Here today at the annual meeting of the AAAS, two researchers explained how remote sensing technology, including satellite imaging and drone flights, is revealing the traces of past civilizations that have been hiding in plain sight."
Tesla Factory Racing To Retool For New Models
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A story about what Tesla will have to do in order to double production every year for the next several years as Elon Musk intends.

"Having just reported a $107.6-million fourth-quarter loss that sent its stock tumbling, Tesla Motors Inc. intends to double vehicle production in the next year as it finally introduces its Model X sport utility vehicle — after about two years of delays. Meanwhile, Tesla is racing to finish the design of its Model 3, the "affordable" Tesla, expected to sell in the $30,000 range after government subsidies. Musk's company is chasing General Motors Co., which plans a 2017 release of its all-electric Bolt, with a similar price and 200-mile driving range between charges."
Elon Musk To Write a Book About Earth Sustainability and Mars Colonization
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Elon Musk has taken on quite a number of projects with a goal of changing the world while making lots of money doing so. He proposes to revolutionize space travel through his commercial launch company, SpaceX. His more earthly endeavors have included electric cars, home solar power, a transportation system called the Hyperloop, a space based Internet and, most recently, a battery that can power a house. Now, according to a story in Business Insider, Musk will open his mind on his views on "sustainability" was well as Mars colonization in book form.
Time-Lapse of Pluto and Charon Produced By New Horizons
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Cool images! Using New Horizons' long range camera, scientists have compiled a movie showing Charon and Pluto orbiting each other during the last week of January 2015. "Pluto and Charon were observed for an entire rotation of each body; a "day" on Pluto and Charon is 6.4 Earth days. The first of the images was taken when New Horizons was about 3 billion miles from Earth, but just 126 million miles (203 million kilometers) from Pluto — about 30% farther than Earth's distance from the Sun. The last frame came 6.5 days later, with New Horizons more than 5 million miles (8 million kilometers) closer." The wobble easily visible in Pluto's motion is due to the gravity of Charon, about one-eighth as massive as Pluto and about the size of Texas. Our view of Pluto and Charon is only going to get better as New Horizons zooms towards its July fly-by.
Bank Hackers Steal Millions Via Malware
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When cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab was called in to investigate ATMs that had begun dispensing cash without input from users, they expected to find a simple problem. Instead, they found the ATMs were just the tip of the iceberg. The bank's internal computer systems were completely compromised, and in addition to the slow but steady siphoning of funds through physical machines, a criminal group was quietly transferring millions of dollars into foreign bank accounts. A report set to be published on Monday shows the attack extended to over 100 banks in 30 nations.

"Kaspersky Lab says it has seen evidence of $300 million in theft from clients, and believes the total could be triple that. But that projection is impossible to verify because the thefts were limited to $10 million a transaction, though some banks were hit several times. In many cases the hauls were more modest, presumably to avoid setting off alarms." Kaspersky Lab is unable to name the banks involved because of non-disclosure agreements, and no banks have come forward to acknowledge the breach. "The silence around the investigation appears motivated in part by the reluctance of banks to concede that their systems were so easily penetrated, and in part by the fact that the attacks appear to be continuing."
Smoking Is Even Deadlier Than Previously Thought
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Who still smokes?" as Denise Grady reports at the NYT that however bad you thought smoking was, it's even worse. A new study has found that in addition to the well-known hazards of lung cancer, artery disease, heart attacks, chronic lung disease and stroke, researchers found that smoking was linked to significantly increased risks of infection, kidney disease, intestinal disease caused by inadequate blood flow, and heart and lung ailments not previously attributed to tobacco. "The smoking epidemic is still ongoing, and there is a need to evaluate how smoking is hurting us as a society, to support clinicians and policy making in public health," says Brian D. Carter, an author of the study. "It's not a done story." Carter says he was inspired to dig deeper into the causes of death in smokers after taking an initial look at data from five large health surveys being conducted by other researchers. As expected, death rates were higher among the smokers but diseases known to be caused by tobacco accounted for only 83 percent of the excess deaths in people who smoked. "I thought, 'Wow, that's really low,' " Mr. Carter said. "We have this huge cohort. Let's get into the weeds, cast a wide net and see what is killing smokers that we don't already know." The researchers found that, compared with people who had never smoked, smokers were about twice as likely to die from infections, kidney disease, respiratory ailments not previously linked to tobacco, and hypertensive heart disease, in which high blood pressure leads to heart failure. "The Surgeon General's report claims 480,000 deaths directly caused by smoking, but we think that is really quite a bit off," concludes Carter adding that the figure may be closer to 540,000.
NASA: Increasing Carbon Emissions Risk Megadroughts
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Droughts in the western U.S. have been bad recently, but not as bad as they could be. Researchers from NASA, Cornell, and Columbia are now warning that if we don't slow the rate at which we produce greenhouse gases, then we're dramatically increasing our odds of a drought that lasts upwards of three decades. "The scientists were interested in megadroughts that took place between 1100 and 1300 in North America. These medieval-period droughts, on a year-to-year basis, were no worse than droughts seen in the recent past. But they lasted, in some cases, 30 to 50 years. When these past megadroughts are compared side-by-side with computer model projections of the 21st century, both the moderate and business-as-usual emissions scenarios are drier, and the risk of droughts lasting 30 years or longer increases significantly."
Study: 8 Million Metric Tons of Plastic Dumped Into Oceans Annually
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According to a new study (abstract) that tracked marine debris from its source, roughly 8 million metric tons of plastic gets dumped into the world's oceans annually. Plastic waste is a global problem, and until now, there wasn't a comprehensive study that highlighted how much plastic waste was making it into the oceans. "The research also lists the world's 20 worst plastic polluters, from China to the United States, based on such factors as size of coastal population and national plastic production. According to the estimate, China tops the list, producing as much as 3.5 million metric tons of marine debris each year. The United States, which generates as much as 110,000 metric tons of marine debris a year, came in at No. 20."
Oldest Twin Remains Found In Siberia
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A team of Canadian and Russian researchers investigating an early Neolithic cemetery in Siberia have identified the world's oldest set of human twins, buried with their young mother. The skeleton of the woman was exhumed in 1997 from a hunter-gatherer cemetery in south-eastern Siberia. Found with 15 marmot teeth — decorative accessories which were probably attached to clothing — the remains were photographed and labelled, but were not investigated by anthropologists. Now Angela Lieverse, a bioarchaeologist at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, and colleagues Andrzej Weber from the University of Alberta, Canada, and Vladimir Bazaliiskii from Irkutsk University, Russia, have examined the skeleton and found remains of twin fetuses nestled between the pelvis and upper legs. The twins, about 36 to 40 weeks old, probably suffocated during their mother's troubled labor nearly 8,000 years ago. "This is not only one of the oldest archaeologically documented cases of death during childbirth, but also the earliest confirmed set of human twins in the world," Lieverse said.
SpaceX Signs Lease Agreement With Air Force For Landing Pad
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Space News reports that SpaceX has signed a historic agreement to allow construction of a landing pad for Falcon 9 booster stages. From the article: "The U.S. Air Force announced Feb. 10 that SpaceX has signed a five-year lease for Cape Canaveral's Launch Complex 13, which was used to launch Atlas rockets and missiles between 1956 and 1978. In its new role, it will serve as a landing pad for Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy booster cores launched from Florida, the Air Force said. Financial terms of the lease were not disclosed." Patrick Air Force Base also provides the documentation used for the environmental impact study which details out how the landing pad will be constructed.
ESA Complete Spaceplane Test Flight; IXV Safely Returns To Earth
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The European Space Agency has successfully completed the first test flight of its Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV), as planned, wherein it saw the wingless spaceplane land in one piece in the Pacific Ocean. A Vega VV04 rocket took the IXV to an altitude of 340 km, from which it separated and continued up to 412 km. Reentering from this suborbital path, it recorded a vast amount of data from more than 300 advanced and conventional sensors. According to ESA the spaceplane few east around the globe during its descent and finally landed safely in the the Pacific Ocean west of the Galapagos Islands at about 15:20 GMT.
NASA Releases Details of Titan Submarine Concept
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Now that NASA has got the hang of planetary rovers, the space agency is looking at sending submarines into space around the year 2040. At the recent 2015 NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts Symposium, NASA scientists and engineers presented a study of the Titan Submarine Phase I Conceptual Design (PDF), which outlines a possible mission to Saturn's largest moon, Titan, where the unmanned submersible would explore the seas of liquid hydrocarbons at the Titanian poles.

"At its heart, the submarine would use a 1 kW radiothermal Stirling generator. This would not only provide power to propel the craft, but it would also keep the electronics from freezing. Unfortunately, Titan is so cold that it's almost a cryogenic environment, so the waste heat from the generator would cause the liquids around it to boil and this would need be taken into account when designing the sub to minimize interference. However, NASA estimates that the boat could do about one meter per second (3.6 km/h, 2.2 mph)."
Homemade RC Millennium Falcon Is the Drone You've Always Dreamed of Flying
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Here's a dose of Rebel goodness to tide you over while you wait for the next Star Wars trailer. A drone enthusiast in France recently graced the web with a few videos of a self-built quadcopter with a shell designed to look like the Millennium Falcon. It's enough to make a Star Wars fan tear up. The drone features a blue thruster light, just like the real Millennium Falcon, and has bright front lights as well. Its creator, who goes by "Oliver C", has some serious modding skills. The shape of the Millennium Falcon presented Oliver with some challenges, but he has the balance more or less handled by the time the spaceship (or quadcopter) takes its first flight outside.
The Strangest Moon In the Solar System
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Moons in our Solar System — at least the ones that formed along with the planets — all revolve counterclockwise around their planetary parents, with roughly uniform surfaces orbiting in the same plane as their other moons and rings. Yet one of Saturn's moon's, Iapetus, is unique, with a giant equatorial ridge, an orbital plane that doesn't line up, and one half that's five times brighter than the other. While the first two are still mysteries, the last one has finally been solved.
Female-Run Companies Often do Better Than Male-Run Ones (Video)
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Viktoria Tsukanov, is one of the executives at predictive marketing company Mintigo who did a study in January, 2015 that seemed to show that large companies with female CEOs "achieve up to 18% higher revenue per employee than male CEOs." The study, titled "She’s the CEO and She’s Sensational," used financial data Mintigo collected on 20 million companies, and determined CEOs' genders by analyzing first names, so it was not subject to survey vagaries but was a straight data analysis job. Could this be a case of correlation and causation being unrelated? It's possible. It's also possible that the revenue per employee figures are affected by the fact that female CEOs are more common in healthcare and non-profit organizations, while men dominate manufacturing and construction -- and, as Viktoria pointed out in a blog post headlined "Women Just Raised the Bar. Big Time." there may be other factors at work as well.

The "18% higher revenue" figure specifically applies to companies with more than 1000 workers, while companies with fewer workers may average more revenue per employee if they have male CEOs. Besides discussing the study itself, in our interview Viktoria talks about how male employees might want to alter (or not alter) their behavior if they find themselves working for a female boss for the first time. She also discusses challenges a woman might face if she is suddenly put in charge of a heavily male IT or programming staff. Other thoughts she shares have to do with finding mentors and dealing with negative people, both of which apply to people of all genders. Interesting food for thought all around
Major Record Labels Keep 73% of Spotify Payouts
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New record company figures out of France suggest that artists are being paid just 68 cents from every €9.99 monthly music streaming subscription – as major labels keep hold of 73% of payouts from the likes of Spotify. They’re followed by writers/publishers with a 16% share, and then artists – mostly paid by their labels – who get 11%.
Scientists discover organism that hasn’t evolved in more than 2 billion years
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Evolution is a natural process — everything evolves over a period of time, depending on the environment. But now scientists have discovered an organism which hasn't evolved for over more than 2 billion years. That's almost the half of the life of the Earth. "The scientists examined sulfur bacteria (abstract), microorganisms that are too small to see with the unaided eye, that are 1.8 billion years old and were preserved in rocks from Western Australia’s coastal waters. Using cutting-edge technology, they found that the bacteria look the same as bacteria of the same region from 2.3 billion years ago — and that both sets of ancient bacteria are indistinguishable from modern sulfur bacteria found in mud off of the coast of Chile." Scientists say the extreme stability of the environment around the organisms made further adaptations unnecessary.
Astronomers Find Vast Ring System Eclipsing a Distant Star
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Astronomers from the Leiden Observatory, Netherlands, and the University of Rochester, New York, have discovered a massive ring system obscuring the light of the young star J1407b. It is believed that the rings belong to a massive planet or possibly a brown dwarf, with an orbital period of roughly 10 years. The giant planet boasts a ring system around 200 times larger than that of Saturn, the only planet in our solar system hosting a ring system of its own."
One Man's Quest To Rid Wikipedia of Exactly One Grammatical Mistake
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Fascinating profile of one particular Wikipedia editor Giraffedata (a 51-year-old software engineer named Bryan Henderson), who has spent the last seven years correcting only the incorrect use of "comprised of" on Wikipedia. Using a code to crawl for uses of "comprised of" throughout all of Wiki's articles, he'll then go in and manually corrects them (for example, using "consists of" or "composed of") and has made over 47,000 edits to date.
Big Telecoms Strangling Municipal Broadband, FCC Intervention May Provide Relief
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With limited choice and often dismal upstream speeds, it's no wonder many people are excited to hear that newcomers like Google Fiber are expanding super-fast gigabit internet across the country. But some Americans also have access to other high-speed fiber internet options that compete with the big guys like Comcast and Time Warner Cable: municipal internet. In the case of the small town of Wilson, NC, town officials first approached Time Warner Cable and Embarq, requesting faster Internet access for their residents and businesses. Both companies, likely not seeing a need to "waste" resources on a town of just 47,000 residents, rebuffed their demands. So what did Wilson do? It spent $28 million dollars to build its own high-speed Internet network, Greenlight, for its residents, offering faster speeds and lower prices than what the big guys could offer. And wouldn't you know it; that finally got the big telecoms to respond.

However, the response wasn't to build-out infrastructure in Wilson or compete on price; it was to try and kill municipal broadband efforts altogether in NC, citing unfair competition. NC's governor at the time, Bev Perdue, had the opportunity to veto the House bill that was introduced, but instead allowed it to become law. However, a new report indicates that the FCC is prepared to side with these smaller towns that ran into roadblocks deploying and maintaining their own high-speed Internet networks. The two towns in question include aforementioned Wilson, and Chattanooga, TN. Action by the FCC would effectively strike down the laws — like those that strangle Greenlight in Wilson — which prevent cities from undercutting established players on price.

The FCC is also expected to propose regulating internet service as a utility later this week.
Sony Sells Off Sony Online Entertainment
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Sony Online Entertainment is to become Daybreak Game Company and turn its focus to multi-platform gaming. The company has been acquired by Columbus Nova and is now an indie studio. "We will continue to focus on delivering exceptional games to players around the world, as well as bringing our portfolio to new platforms, fully embracing the multi-platform world in which we all live," said Daybreak president John Smedley. But why did Sony shed SOE? Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter believes an online gaming company "isn't a great fit, particularly as games are shifting increasingly to a free-to-play mobile model."
The "Cool Brick" Can Cool Off an Entire Room Using Nothing But Water
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Emerging Objects, a company which experiments with 3D printing technology, has created what they call the "Cool Brick." Using basic concepts of evaporation, it holds water like a sponge, takes in hot dry air and converts it into cool moist air. 3D-printed with a specially engineered lattice using ceramics, it can be formed into entire walls which could be placed in different rooms of a house or building, thus replacing the need for air conditioning in hot, dry climates such as deserts.
DARPA-Funded Robots Learning To Cook By Watching YouTube Videos
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Once you've built humanoid-shaped robots, how do you get them to move and act like humans? Well, one way to teach them how to do it is to have them watch one of the greatest repository of recorded human experience ever: YouTube. Robots in a Maryland lab have learned how to prepare meals by watching and processing a slew of cooking videos, one of YouTube's most popular genres.
NASA Launches Satellite To Observe Soil Moisture
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NASA has launched an Earth-observing satellite, which will measure the amount of moisture in soil. "In one of the space agency's bolder projects, a newly launched NASA satellite will monitor western drought and study the moisture, frozen and liquid in Earth's soil. It's true that a satellite can't possibly fix the devastating drought that has been plaguing the American West for the last years. It is also true that it can't possibly change the fact that California has just gone through the driest month in recorded history. But what NASA plans to do is to provide the possibility of understanding the patterns of this extreme weather and, perhaps, foresee how much worse it could actually become. Called the SMAP (Soil Moisture Active Passive Satellite), this new, unmanned project was successfully launched on Saturday atop the United Launch Alliance Delta II Rocket. The launch took place at the California Vandenberg Air Force base at exactly 9:22 AM EST. With the successful launch, NASA just kick started a three year, $916 million mission focused on measuring and forecasting droughts, floods and other possible natural disasters that might come our way in the future."
Police Stations Increasingly Offer Safe Haven For Craigslist Transactions
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Lily Hay Newman reports at Future Tense that the police department in Columbia, Missouri recently announced its lobby will be open 24/7 for people making Craigslist transactions or any type of exchange facilitated by Internet services. This follows a trend begun by police stations in Virginia Beach, East Chicago and Boca Raton. Internet listings like Craigslist are, of course, a quick and convenient way to buy, sell, barter, and generally deal with junk. But tales of Craigslist-related assaults, robberies, and murders where victims are lured to locations with the promise of a sale, aren't uncommon. Also, an item being sold could be broken or fake, and the money being used to buy it could be counterfeit.

"Transactions should not be conducted in secluded parking lots, behind a building, in a dark location especially when you're dealing with strangers. Someone you've never met before – you have no idea what their intentions are – whether they have evil intent or the best of intentions," says Officer James Cason Jr. With surveillance cameras running 24 hours a day, plus the obvious bonus of a constant police presence, meeting in the lobby of the police department can help weed out people trying to rip others off. "People with stolen items may not want to meet at the police department," says Bryana Maupin.
Most Americans Support Government Action On Climate Change
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An overwhelming majority of the American public, including nearly half of Republicans, support government action to curb global warming, according to a poll conducted by The New York Times, Stanford University and the nonpartisan environmental research group Resources for the Future. In a finding that could have implications for the 2016 presidential campaign, the poll also found that two-thirds of Americans say they are more likely to vote for political candidates who campaign on fighting climate change. They are less likely to vote for candidates who question or deny the science of human-caused global warming.

Among Republicans, 48 percent said they are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports fighting climate change, a result that Jon A. Krosnick, a professor of political science at Stanford University and an author of the survey, called "the most powerful finding" in the poll. Many Republican candidates either question the science of climate change or do not publicly address the issue.
'Anonymized' Credit Card Data Not So Anonymous, MIT Study Shows
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Scientists showed they can identify you with more than 90 percent accuracy by looking at just four purchases, three if the price is included — and this is after companies "anonymized" the transaction records, saying they wiped away names and other personal details. The study out of MIT, published Thursday in the journal Science, examined three months of credit card records for 1.1 million people. "We are showing that the privacy we are told that we have isn't real," study co-author Alex "Sandy" Pentland of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in an email.
Scientists 3D-Printing Cartilage For Medical Implants
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Scientists and physicians at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research have discovered a way to use MakerBot's 3D-printing technologies to create cartilage and repair tissue damage in the trachea. From the article: "Researchers found that it’s possible to use the MakerBot Replicator 2X Experimental 3D Printer to print what’s called 'scaffolding,' made up of PLA, a bioplastic commonly used in in surgical implant devices. The team customized the printer so that living cells could be printed onto the scaffolding. The 3D-printed mixture of healthy cells found in cartilage, and collagen, eventually grew into the shape of a trachea that could be implanted into a patient."
The American App Economy Is Now "Bigger Than Hollywood"
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Technology business analyst Horace Deidu found an interesting nugget while closely examining an Apple press release from earlier this year: "The iOS App Store distributed $10 billion to developers in 2014, which, Deidu points out, is just about as much as Hollywood earned off U.S. box office revenues the same year." That means the American app industry is poised to eclipse the American film industry. Additionally, Apple says its App Store has created 627,000 jobs, which Deidu contrasts with the 374,000 jobs Hollywood creates
Justice Department: Default Encryption Has Created a 'Zone of Lawlessness'
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Leslie Caldwell, an assistant attorney general at the Justice Department, said Tuesday that the department is "very concerned" by the Google's and Apple's decision to automatically encrypt all data on Android and iOS devices.

"We understand the value of encryption and the importance of security," she said. "But we're very concerned they not lead to the creation of what I would call a 'zone of lawlessness,' where there's evidence that we could have lawful access through a court order that we're prohibited from getting because of a company's technological choices.
Comcast Pays Overdue Fees, Offers Freebies For TWC Merger Approval
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In seeking more support for its mega-merger with Time-Warner Cable, Comcast has been going across the country giving local governments a chance to ask for favors in exchange for approving a franchise transfer. In Minneapolis, this turned up an unpaid bill of $40,000 in overdue franchise fees, so Comcast will have to pay the city money it already owed in order to get the franchise transfer. Comcast will also throw in $50,000 worth of free service and equipment.

"Thirty Minneapolis city buildings will get free basic cable for the next seven years as part of a package of concessions (PDF) the city wrung out of Comcast in exchange for blessing its proposed merger with fellow cable giant Time Warner," Minnesota Public Radio reported. The article notes that getting any kind of refund out of a cable company is not easy.

Part of the deal with Minneapolis involves the spinoff of a new cable company called GreatLand Connections that will serve 2.5 million customers in the Midwest and Southeast, including Minnesota. After the deal, Comcast's franchises in those areas would be transferred to GreatLand. Such goodwill concessions may seem impressive as Comcast seeks to foster goodwill, but one wonders how Comcast/Time Warner will behave after the merger.
Kepler Discovers Solar System's Ancient 'Twin'
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Astronomers have found a star system that bears a striking resemblance to our inner solar system. It's a sun-like star that plays host to a system of five small exoplanets — from the size of Mercury to the size of Venus. But there's something very alien about this compact 'solar system'; it formed when the universe was only 20 percent the age it is now, making it the most ancient star system playing host to terrestrial sized worlds discovered to date.
New Google Fiber Cities Announced
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Google has announced the next group of cities set to receive gigabit fiber infrastructure. They're concentrating on cities around four metro areas: Atlanta, Charlotte, Nashville, and Raleigh-Durham. "We’ve been working closely with city leaders over the past year on a joint planning process to get their communities ready for Google Fiber—and now the really hard work begins. Our next step is to work with cities to create a detailed map of where we can put our thousands of miles of fiber, using existing infrastructure such as utility poles and underground conduit, and making sure to avoid things like gas and water lines. Then a team of surveyors and engineers will hit the streets to fill in missing details. Once we’re done designing the network (which we expect to wrap up in a few months), we’ll start construction." Google also said they're currently looking into Phoenix, Portland, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, and San Jose.
Scientists Determine New Way To Untangle Proteins By Unboiling an Egg
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Univ. of California, Irvine (UC Irvine) and Australian chemists have figured out how to unboil egg whites—an innovation that could dramatically reduce costs for cancer treatments, food production and other segments of the $160 billion global biotechnology industry, according to findings published in ChemBioChem. 'Yes, we have invented a way to unboil a hen egg,' said Gregory Weiss, UCI professor of chemistry and molecular biology & biochemistry. 'In our paper, we describe a device for pulling apart tangled proteins and allowing them to refold. We start with egg whites boiled for 20 min at 90 C and return a key protein in the egg to working order.'
How Do We Know the Timeline of the Universe?
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The history of the Universe happened in a well-known order: inflation ends, matter wins out over antimatter, the electroweak symmetry breaks, antimatter annihilates away, atomic nuclei form, then neutral atoms, stars, galaxies, and eventually us. But scientists and science magazines often publish timelines of the Universe with incredibly precise times describing when these various events occur. Here's how we arrive at those values, along with the rarely-publicized uncertainties.
At Oxford, a Battery That's Lasted 175 Years -- So Far
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There sits, in the Clarendon Laboratory at Oxford University, a bell that has been ringing, nonstop, for at least 175 years. It's powered by a single battery that was installed in 1840. Researchers would love to know what the battery is made of, but they are afraid that opening the bell would ruin an experiment to see how long it will last. The bell's clapper oscillates back and forth constantly and quickly, meaning the Oxford Electric Bell, as it's called, has rung roughly 10 billion times, according to the university. It's made of what's called a "dry pile," which is one of the first electric batteries. Dry piles were invented by a guy named Giuseppe Zamboni (no relation to the ice resurfacing company) in the early 1800s. They use alternating discs of silver, zinc, sulfur, and other materials to generate low currents of electricity.
10 New Rosetta Images Reveal Comet 67P In All Its Glory
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The first scientific results from Rosetta at comet 67P have been published, and they detail a surprising diversity of features on the 4-kilometer-long duck-shaped comet. The discoveries include images from Rosetta's main science camera, OSIRIS, which reveal 67P to be a far more varied place than anyone expected. The article summarizes a trove of scientific papers that were published today about comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The best part? They're all freely available.
Verizon About To End Construction of Its Fiber Network
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If you've been holding out hope that FiOS would rescue you from your local cable monopoly, it's probably time to give up. Making good on their statements five years ago, Verizon announced this week it is nearing "the end" of its fiber construction and is reducing wireline capital expenditures while spending more on wireless.

The expense of replacing old copper lines with fiber has allegedly led Verizon to stop building in new regions and to complete wiring up the areas where it had already begun. The fiber network was profitable, but nowhere near as profitable as their wireless network. So, if Verizon hasn't started in your neighborhood by now, they never will, and you'd best ignore all those ads for FiOS.
U.S. Gas Stations Vulnerable To Internet Attacks
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Automated tank gauges (ATGs), which are used by gas stations in the U.S. to monitor their fuel tank levels can be manipulated over the Internet by malicious attackers, according to security firm Rapid7. "An attacker with access to the serial port interface of an ATG may be able to shut down the station by spoofing the reported fuel level, generating false alarms, and locking the monitoring service out of the system," said HD Moore, the chief research officer at Rapid7.
Data Encryption On the Rise In the Cloud and Mobile
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Overall, demand for encryption is growing. Cloud encryption services provider CipherCloud recently received a $50 million investment by Deutsche Telekom, which the company said positions it for "explosive growth" this year. The services are designed to allow corporations to benefit from the cost savings and elasticity of cloud-based data storage, while ensuring that sensitive information is protected.

Now, both Apple and Google are providing full encryption as a default option on their mobile operating systems with an encryption scheme they are not able to break themselves, since they don't hold the necessary keys.

Some corporations have gone as far as turning to "zero-knowledge" services, usually located in countries such as Switzerland. These services pledge that they have no means to unlock the information once the customer has entered the unique encryption keys. This zero-knowledge approach is welcomed by users, who are reassured that their information is impossible to retrieve — at least theoretically — without their knowledge and the keys.
Facebook Will Let You Flag Content As 'False'
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If you're tired of seeing fake or misleading news articles posted by your friends to Facebook and then spreading like wildfire, you might be in luck. In a system that's something like Slashdot comment moderation on a grand scale, you'll now be able to flag a story as false. Links that have been flagged this way by many users will appear less frequently in people's newsfeeds, or with a disclaimer attached.
X-ray technique reads burnt Vesuvius scroll
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For the first time, words have been read from a burnt, rolled-up scroll buried by Mount Vesuvius in AD79.
Microbots Deliver Medical Payload In Living Creature For the First Time
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Researchers working at the University of California, San Diego have claimed a world first in proving that artificial, microscopic machines can travel inside a living creature and deliver their medicinal load without any detrimental effects. Using micro-motor powered robots propelled by gas bubbles made from a reaction with the contents of the stomach in which they were deposited, these miniature machines have been successfully deployed in the body of a live mouse.
Astronomers Record Mystery Radio Signals From 5.5 Billion Light Years Away
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For the first time ever, astronomers have captured an enormous radio wave burst in real time, bringing us one step closer to understanding their origins. These fleeting eruptions, called blitzars or FRBs (Fast Radio Bursts), are truly bizarre cosmic phenomena. In the span of a millisecond, they emit as much radiation as the Sun does over a million years. But unlike other super-luminous events that span multiple wavelengths—gamma ray bursts or supernovae, for example—blitzars emit all that energy in a tiny band of the radio light spectrum. Adding to the mystery is the rarity of blitzar sightings. Since these bursts were first discovered in 2007 with Australia's Parkes Telescope, ten have been identified, the latest of which was the first to be imaged in real time.
Mummy Mask May Reveal Oldest Known Gospel
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A text that may be the oldest copy of a gospel known to exist — a fragment of the Gospel of Mark that was written during the first century, before the year 90 — is set to be published.
Elon Musk's Proposed Internet-by-Satellite System Could Link With Mars Colonies
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You have to hand it to Elon Musk who has occasionally be referred to as a real life "Tony Stark." The man helped to co-found PayPal and Tesla Motors. Musk also helms SpaceX, which just recently made its fifth successful trip the International Space Station (ISS) to deliver supplies via the Dragon capsule. The secondary mission of the latest ISS launch resulted in the "successful failure" of the Falcon 9 rocket, which Musk described as a Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly (RUD) event. In addition to his Hyperloop transit side project, Musk is eyeing a space-based Internet network that would be comprised of hundred of micro satellites orbiting roughly 750 miles above Earth. The so-called "Space Internet" would provide faster data speeds than traditional communications satellites that have a geosynchronous orbit of roughly 22,000 miles. Musk hopes that the service will eventually grow to become "a giant global Internet service provider," reaching over three billion people who are currently either without Internet service or only have access to low-speed connections. And this wouldn't be a Musk venture without reaching for some overly ambitious goal. The satellite network would truly become a "Space Internet" platform, as it would form the basis for a direct communications link between Earth and Mars.
Republican Bill Aims To Thwart the FCC's Leaning Towards Title II
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U.S. congressional Republicans on Friday proposed legislation that would set "net neutrality" rules for broadband providers, aiming to head off tougher regulations backed by the Obama administration. Republican lawmakers hope to counter the Federal Communications Commission's vote on Feb. 26 for rules that are expected to follow the legal path endorsed by President Barack Obama, which Internet service providers (ISPs) and Republicans say would unnecessarily burden the industry with regulation. Net neutrality activists, now with Obama's backing, have advocated for regulation of ISPs under a section of communications law known as Title II, which would treat them more like public utilities. The White House on Thursday said legislation was not necessary to settle so-called "net neutrality" rules because the Federal Communications Commission had the authority to write them.
Hibernation Protein May Halt Alzheimer's
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The BBC is reporting that tests show a protein called RBM3, involved in hibernation, may hold the key to regenerating synapses. In the early stages of Alzheimer's, and other neurodegenerative disorders, synapses are lost. This inevitably progresses to whole brain cells dying. But during hibernation, 20-30% of the connections in the brain — synapses — are culled as the body preserves resources over winter, and are reformed in the spring, with no loss of memory. Memories can be restored after hibernation as only the receiving end of the synapse shuts down. In a further set of tests, the team showed the brain cell deaths from prion disease and Alzheimer's could be prevented by artificially boosting RBM3 levels. Prof Mallucci was asked if memories could be restored in people if their synapses could be restored: "Absolutely, because a lot of memory decline is correlated with synapse loss, which is the early stage of dementia, so you might get back some of the synapse you've lost."
Analysis Suggests Solar System Contains Massive Trans-Neptunian Objects
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NBC News reports that at least two planets larger than Earth likely lurk far beyond Pluto, just waiting to be discovered, a new analysis of the orbits of "extreme trans-Neptunian objects" (ETNOs) suggests. The potential undiscovered worlds would be more massive than Earth and would lie about 200 AU or more from the sun — so far away that they'd be very difficult, if not impossible, to spot with current instruments. "The exact number is uncertain, given that the data that we have is limited, but our calculations suggest that there are at least two planets, and probably more, within the confines of our solar system," lead author Carlos de la Fuente Marcos, of the Complutense University of Madrid, said.
NASA, NOAA: 2014 Was the Warmest Year In the Modern Record
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NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration both announced today that 2014 was the warmest year in the instrumental temperature record, surpassing the prior winners, 2010 and 2005. NASA also released a short video. They said, "Since 1880, Earth’s average surface temperature has warmed by about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degrees Celsius), a trend that is largely driven by the increase in carbon dioxide and other human emissions into the planet’s atmosphere. The majority of that warming has occurred in the past three decades. ... While 2014 temperatures continue the planet’s long-term warming trend, scientists still expect to see year-to-year fluctuations in average global temperature caused by phenomena such as El Niño or La Niña. These phenomena warm or cool the tropical Pacific and are thought to have played a role in the flattening of the long-term warming trend over the past 15 years. However, 2014’s record warmth occurred during an El Niño-neutral year."
SpaceX Landing Attempt Video Released
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Last week, SpaceX attempted to land a Falcon 9 rocket on an autonomous ocean platform after successfully launching supplies to the ISS. It didn't work, but Elon Musk said they were close. Now, an amazing video has been recovered from an onboard camera, and it shows just how close it was. You can see the rocket hitting the platform while descending at an angle, then breaking up. Musk said a few days ago that not only do they know what the problem was, but they've already solved it. The rocket's guiding fins require hydraulic fluid to operate. They had enough fluid to operate for 4 minutes, but ran out just prior to landing. Their next launch already carries 50% more hydraulic fluid, so it shouldn't be an issue next time.
Ocean Life Faces Mass Extinction, Broad Study Says
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A team of scientists, in a groundbreaking analysis of data from hundreds of sources, has concluded that humans are on the verge of causing unprecedented damage to the oceans and the animals living in them.

“We may be sitting on a precipice of a major extinction event,” said Douglas J. McCauley, an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an author of the new research, which was published on Thursday in the journal Science.
Lost Beagle2 Probe Found 'Intact' On Mars
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The missing Mars robot Beagle2 has been found on the surface of the Red Planet, apparently intact. High-resolution images taken from orbit have identified its landing location, and it looks to be in one piece. The UK-led probe tried to make a soft touchdown on the dusty world on Christmas Day, 2003, using parachutes and airbags — but no radio contact was ever made with the probe. Many scientists assumed it had been destroyed in a high-velocity impact.

The new pictures, acquired by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, give the lie to that notion, and hint at what really happened to the European mission. Beagle's design incorporated a series of deployable "petals," on which were mounted its solar panels. From the images, it seems that this system did not unfurl fully. "Without full deployment, there is no way we could have communicated with it as the radio frequency antenna was under the solar panels," explained Prof Mark Sims, Beagle's mission manager from Leicester University.
Where Cellular Networks Don't Exist, People Are Building Their Own
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According to a story at Wired, towns in Mexico that aren't served by the nation's telecom monopoly are taking matters in their own hands with the help of a non-profit and open source technology. "Strategically ignored by Mexico's major telecoms, Yaee is putting itself on the mobile communications grid with the help of a Oaxaca-based telecommunications non-profit called Rhizomatica." A locally-made tower is the backbone of Yaee's first cellular network. The town's network is composed of two antennas and an open-source base station from a Canadian company called NuRAN. Once Yaee gets the tower installed and the network online, its 500 citizens will, for the first time, be able to make cell phone calls from home, and for cheaper rates than almost anywhere else in Mexico.
UK Computing Teachers Concerned That Pupils Know More Than Them
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A survey of UK schools carried out by Microsoft and Computing at School reveals some worrying statistics that are probably more widely applicable. The survey revealed that (68%) of primary and secondary teachers are concerned that their pupils have a better understanding of computing than they do. Moreover, the pupils reinforced this finding with 47% claiming that their teachers need more training. Again to push the point home, 41% of pupils admitted to regularly helping their teachers with technology. This isn't all due to the teachers being new at the task — 76% had taught computing before the new curriculum was introduced. It seems that switching from an approach that emphasised computer literacy to one that actually wants students to do more difficult things is the reason for the problem.
Short-Term Exposure To Diesel Fumes Causes Changes In Gene Expression
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The Vancouver Sun is reporting on experiments using human volunteers showing that just two hours of exposure to diesel exhaust fumes led to biological changes; some genes were switched on while others turned off. The air quality during the diesel fume exposures is said to be comparable to a Beijing highway or shipping ports in British Columbia. The next step is for researchers to study how changes in gene expression from air pollution affect the human body over the long term, since the study shows genes may be vulnerable to pollution without producing any obvious or immediate symptoms of ill health."
The Little Question That Fueled Alan Alda's Big Push For Plain-Spoken Science (PODCAST)
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Alan Alda became famous for his film and television roles, including Hawkeye Pierce in the long-running TV series M*A*S*H*. In recent years, however, the 78-year-old actor-writer-director has taken on a new role--as a high-profile champion of science literacy.
SpaceX Rocket Launch Succeeds, But Landing Test Doesn't
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A Falcon 9 rocket built by SpaceX successfully launched a Dragon cargo ship toward the International Space Station early Saturday— and then returned to Earth, apparently impacting its target ocean platform during a landing test in the Atlantic.

"Rocket made it to drone spaceport ship, but landed hard. Close, but no cigar this time. Bodes well for the future tho," Elon Musk tweeted shortly after the launch. He added that they didn't get good video of the landing attempt, so they'll be piecing it together using telemetry and debris. "Ship itself is fine. Some of the support equipment on the deck will need to be replaced."
NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission May Not Actually Redirect an Asteroid
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When President Obama first proposed visiting an asteroid in his 2010 speech at the Kennedy Space Center, many assumed that the mission would be a deep space mission to an Earth-approaching asteroid in its "native orbit" in voyage taking weeks. Then, NASA dropped the idea in 2013 favor of the Asteroid Redirect Mission in which a tiny asteroid would be diverted to lunar orbit to be visited by astronauts. Now, according to a Thursday story in Space News, the ARM might take place without redirecting an asteroid.
Study: 15 Per Cent of Business Cloud Users Have Been Hacked
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Recent research has identified that only one in ten cloud apps are secure enough for enterprise use. According to a report from cloud experts Netskope, organizations are employing an average of over 600 business cloud apps, despite the majority of software posing a high risk of data leak. The company showed that 15% of logins for business apps used by organizations had been breached by hackers. Over 20% of businesses in the Netskope cloud actively used more than 1,000 cloud apps, and over 8% of files in corporate-sanctioned cloud storage apps were in violation of DLP policies, source code, and other policies surrounding confidential and sensitive data. Google Drive, Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and Gmail were among the apps investigated in the Netskope research.
Unbundling Cable TV: Be Careful What You Wish For
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Consumers have long complained about the practice of "bundling" cable services and forcing customers to pay for channels they don't want — and an increasing number of "cord cutters" are voting with their wallets. But an article in the New York Times suggests that if cable companies are finally forced to unbundle their services it may actually result in higher prices and worse service. From the article: "there's another, more subjective dimension in which the rise of unbundled cable service may make us worse off. It's possible for a market to become more economically efficient while becoming less pleasant for consumers. For a prime example, head to your nearest airport."
SpaceX One Step Closer To Launching Astronaut
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SpaceX has passed NASA's "certification baseline review," which required the company to outline exactly how it plans to ferry crews to and from the International Space Station using the Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket under SpaceX's Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contract with NASA. The contract will include at least one test flight with an astronaut in the spacecraft.
The Downside of Connected Healthcare: Cyberchondria
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Like hypochondria, cyberchondria is simply a more elegant way of saying "it's all in your head" — only in this case the people self-diagnosing are using tenuous data gleaned from the Internet and our ever-connected gadgets to support their hypotheses. Virtually everyone who has put the Microsoft Band through its paces has come away with the claim that its heart rate monitor is simply bad. ... The Moto 360’s heart rate monitor doesn’t fare much better, and in only the most perfect, motionless conditions will it provide anything close to an accurate reading. These are horribly inaccurate health tools, yet they are used as bullet points for would-be buyers to cling to. ... Even WebMD—the service that has given so many cyberchondriacs the fuel to continue guessing—has a note on every single one of its countless pages that states the site “does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.” And yet, that’s the one and only thing most people use WebMD for.
Hubble Takes Amazing New Images of Andromeda, Pillars of Creation
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The Hubble Space Telescope was launched in April, 1990. In 1995, it presented us with one of its most iconic images: a close-up of gas pillars in the Eagle Nebula, dubbed the "Pillars of Creation." Now, as HST approaches its 25th anniversary, astronomers have re-shot the pillars at a much higher resolution. Here are direct images links: visible light, comparison with old image, near-infrared light. "The infrared view transforms the pillars into eerie, wispy silhouettes seen against a background of myriad stars. That's because the infrared light penetrates much of the gas and dust, except for the densest regions of the pillars. Newborn stars can be seen hidden away inside the pillars."

That's not the only new image from Hubble today: NASA has also released the most high definition view of the Andromeda Galaxy that we've ever seen. Here's a web-friendly image, but that doesn't really do it justice. The full image is 69,536 px by 22,230 px. To see Andromeda in all its glory, visit the ESA's dedicated, zoomable site that contains all the image data. At the highest zoom levels, you can make out a mind-blowing number of individual stars. Andromeda is over 2 million light-years distant.
How Galaxies Are Disappearing From Our Universe
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You've heard of dark energy before, and you know that it causes the expansion of our Universe to be accelerating. Instead of slowing down, distant galaxies are speeding up in their recession from us, rendering them unreachable from our point of view. But even though we can't see the light emitted from them today, we can still see the galaxies themselves! This article explains how this works, how no information gets lost, and what it means for the Big Bang.
Quileute Petroglyph Confirms Connection to Oral Histories
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A pre-contact Quileute petroglyph that depicts K’wati, or the Transformer’s, killing of a monster that terrorized the Quileute people is considered by Quileute officials to be the most significant archaeological find to date. The pre-contact petroglyph, which is set in stone, also confirms the antiquity of an important story that has been passed down as a spoken teaching from generation to generation.
10 Years In, Mars Rover Opportunity Suffers From Flash Memory Degradation
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Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has been exploring the Martian surface for over a decade — that's an amazing ten years longer than the 3-month primary mission it began in January 2004. But with its great successes, inevitable age-related issues have surfaced and mission engineers are being challenged by an increasingly troubling bout of "amnesia" triggered by the rover's flash memory. "The problems started off fairly benign, but now they've become more serious — much like an illness, the symptoms were mild, but now with the progression of time things have become more serious," Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager John Callas, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., told Discovery News.
5,200 Days Aboard ISS, and the Surprising Reason the Mission Is Still Worthwhile
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Spaceflight has faded from American consciousness even as our performance in space has reached a new level of accomplishment. In the past decade, America has become a truly, permanently spacefaring nation. All day, every day, half a dozen men and women, including two Americans, are living and working in orbit, and have been since November 2000. Charles Fishman has a long, detailed article about life aboard the ISS in The Atlantic that is well worth the read; you are sure to learn something you didn't already know about earth's permanent outpost in space.
Hubble Reveals a Previously Unknown Dwarf Galaxy Just 7 Million Light Years Away
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The L.A. Times reports that the Hubble Space Telescope's ongoing survey work has discovered a dwarf universe a mere 7 million light years away:

While only just recently discovered using Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys, the galaxy known as KKs3 has been around for a long while. Astronomers led by Igor Karachentsev of the Special Astrophysical Observatory in Karachai-Cherkessia, Russia, showed that some 74% of KKs3’s star mass was formed in the universe’s early years, at least 12 billion years ago. Most of the tiny galaxy’s stars are old and dim, making it a fascinating fossil that could help astronomers understand what ancient galactic environments looked like

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