Space

Asteroid Risk Greatly Overestimated By Almost Everyone 128

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-my-asteroid-insurance-business-is-thriving dept.
StartsWithABang writes: When it comes to risk assessment, there's one type that humans are notoriously bad at: the very low-frequency but high-consequence risks and rewards. It's why so many of us are so eager to play the lottery, and simultaneously why we're catastrophically afraid of ebola and plane crashes, when we're far more likely to die from something mundane, like getting hit by a truck. One of the examples where science and this type of fear-based fallacy intersect is the science of asteroid strikes. With all we know about asteroids today, here's the actual risk to humanity, and it's much lower than anyone cares to admit.
Science

New Class of "Non-Joulian" Magnets Change Volume In Magnetic Field 17

Posted by Soulskill
from the polarizing-research dept.
Zothecula notes an announcement from the University of Maryland saying they have developed a new class of magnets, called "Non-Joulian" magnets, which physically expand in the presence of a magnetic field. "In the 1840s, physicist James Prescott Joule discovered that iron-based magnetic materials changed their shape but not their volume when placed in a magnetic field. This phenomenon is referred to as "Joule Magnetostriction," and since its discovery 175 years ago, all magnets have been characterized on this basis." Another significant property of these new magnets is that they can harvest or convert energy with very little waste heat (abstract). The magnets are created when thermally-treated, iron-based alloys are heated in a furnace, then rapidly cooled. When they reach room temperature, they have an odd, almost cellular shape on the microscopic level. The researchers say the magnets have numerous applications for energy-efficient sensors and actuators.
Space

India Targets July/August To Test Its Space Shuttle 67

Posted by Soulskill
from the hurry-up,-the-ISS-needs-pizza dept.
New submitter gubol123 writes with news that India is close to launching its own space shuttle for the first time. Their space program, ISRO, is planning the shuttle's first test flight for some time in July or August. The unmanned shuttle will fly to a height of approximately 70 kilometers before splashing down in the Bay of Bengal. Oddly, the vehicle itself probably won't be recovered. When it lands in the water, it will sink, and there are no plans to try to bring it back to the surface. The most important obstacles are surviving re-entry and simply staying intact during splashdown. Scientists and ISRO engineers are hoping the shuttle program, when finished, will drop the cost of placing objects in orbit by a factor of 10.
Biotech

DNA On Pizza Crust Leads To Quadruple Murder Suspect 154

Posted by samzenpus
from the taking-a-bite-out-of-crime dept.
HughPickens.com writes: In a case straight out of CSI, CNN reports that police are searching for the man suspected in the gruesome slayings of the Savopoulos family and their housekeeper, after his DNA was purportedly found on a pizza crust at the scene of the quadruple murders. They discovered his DNA on the crust of a Domino's pizza — one of two delivered to the Savopoulos home May 14 as the family was held hostage inside — a source familiar with the investigation said. The pizza apparently was paid for with cash left in an envelope on the porch. The next morning, Savvas Savopoulos's personal assistant dropped off a package containing $40,000 in cash at the home, according to the officials and police documents.

The bodies of Savopoulos, along with his wife, Amy, their 10-year-old son Philip and the family's housekeeper, Veralicia Figueroa, were discovered the afternoon of May 14 after firefighters responded to reports of a fire. D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier says the killings are likely not a random crime and police have issued an arrest warrant for the 34-year-old Daron Dylon Wint, who is described as 5'7 and 155 lbs and might also go by the name "Steffon." Wint apparently used to work at American Iron Works, where Savvas Savopoulos was CEO and president. The neighborhood is home to numerous embassies and diplomatic mansions as well as the official residence of Vice President Joe Biden and his wife. "Right now you have just about every law enforcement officer across the country aware of his open warrant and are looking for him," says Lanier. "I think even his family has made pleas for him to turn himself in."
Earth

Gravitational Anomalies Beneath Mountains Point To Isostasy of Earth's Crust 90

Posted by samzenpus
from the give-and-take dept.
StartsWithABang writes: Imagine you wanted to know what your acceleration was anywhere on Earth; imagine that simply saying "9.81 m/s^2" wasn't good enough. What would you need to account for? Sure, there are the obvious things: the Earth's rotation and its various altitudes and different points. Surely, the farther away you are from Earth's center, the less your acceleration's going to be. But what might come as a surprise is that if you went up to the peak of the highest mountains, not only would the acceleration due to gravity be its lowest, but there'd also be less mass beneath your feet than at any other location.
Earth

Oldest Stone Tools Predate Previous Record Holder By 700,000 Years 103

Posted by samzenpus
from the back-in-the-day dept.
derekmead writes: 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.
Mars

Martian Moons May Have Formed Like Earth's 50

Posted by Soulskill
from the carved-out-of-green-cheese dept.
sciencehabit writes: Astronomers have long believed that Mars snatched its two moons — Phobos and Deimos — from the asteroid belt. That would explain why the objects look like asteroids—dark, crater-pocked, and potato-shaped. But computer simulations by two independent teams of astronomers (abstract 1, abstract 2) indicated that Mars's moons formed much like ours did, after a giant space rock smashed into the planet and sprayed debris into orbit.
Biotech

After a Year of Secret Field-Testing, Brain-Controlled Bionic Legs Are Here 50

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'll-order-a-dozen dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Today, 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.
The Military

Robotic Space Plane Launches In Mystery Mission This Week 109

Posted by samzenpus
from the flying-into-a-mystery dept.
mpicpp writes: The United States Air Force's robotic X-37B space plane will carry a NASA experiment into orbit when it launches on its next mystery mission Wednesday. The liftoff will begin the reusable space plane's fourth mission, which is known as OTV-4 (short for Orbital Test Vehicle-4). Since it's classified it's not entirely clear what the space plane will be doing once it leaves Earth Wednesday. This has led to some speculation that the vehicle might be a weapon, but officials have repeatedly refuted that notion, saying X-37B flights simply test a variety of new technologies. The X-37B looks like a miniature version of NASA's now-retired space shuttle. The robotic, solar-powered space plane is about 29 feet long by 9.5 feet tall (8.8 by 2.9 meters), with a wingspan of 15 feet (4.6 meters) and a payload bay the size of a pickup-truck bed. Like the space shuttle, the X-37B launches vertically and lands horizontally, on a runway.
AI

Forecasting the Next Pandemic 57

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-don't-feel-so-good dept.
sciencehabit writes: A new study led by Barbara A. Han, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, suggests a computer model that incorporates machine learning can pinpoint, with 90% accuracy, rodent species that are known to harbor pathogens that can spread to humans. Sciencemag reports on the study: "Han and her team first used their program to identify lifestyle patterns common to rodents harboring diseases like black plague, rabies, and hanta virus and found that their model had an accuracy rate of 90%. After the machine had 'learned' the telltale signs, the researchers searched for new rodents that fit the profile but were not previously thought to be carriers. So far, the model has identified more than 150 new animal species that could harbor zoonotic diseases, the researchers report online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The computer program also predicted 58 new infections in rodents that were already known to carry one zoonotic disease."
Space

Four Quasars Found Clustered Together Defy Current Cosmological Expectations 62

Posted by samzenpus
from the standing-out-in-a-crowd dept.
StartsWithABang writes: 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.
Crime

Silk Road's Leader Paid a Doctor To Help Keep Customers Safe 110

Posted by samzenpus
from the safety-first dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Two years after the fall of Silk Road, new facts about the saga are still emerging all the time. The latest revelation is that Dread Pirate Roberts, the leader of Silk Road, paid a doctor $500 per week to offer public and private counseling to customers of the site. DoctorX, also known as Dr. Fernando Caudevilla, became famous for his free work on the site. The fact that he was eventually paid a salary is being used by lawyers for Ross Ulbricht to argue that Silk Road emphasized harm reduction and was, on the whole, a huge improvement in safety for drug users.
Biotech

Genetically Engineered Yeast Makes It Possible To Brew Morphine 331

Posted by samzenpus
from the let-it-rise dept.
PvtVoid writes: The New York times reports that newly developed yeast strains will soon make it possible to create morphine from fermentation of sugar. While no one has claimed to make morphine in lab from scratch yet, concerns are already being raised about potential abuse. According to the Times article: "This rapid progress in synthetic biology has set off a debate about how — and whether — to regulate it. Dr. Oye and other experts said this week in a commentary in Nature Chemical Biology that drug-regulatory authorities are ill prepared to control a process that will benefit the heroin trade much more than the prescription painkiller industry. The world should take steps to head that off, they argue, by locking up the bioengineered yeast strains and restricting access to the DNA that would let drug cartels reproduce them.
Space

How We'll Someday Be Able To See Past the Cosmic Microwave Background 64

Posted by samzenpus
from the someday-maybe dept.
StartsWithABang writes: When it comes to the farthest thing we can see in the Universe, that's the Cosmic Microwave Background, or the leftover glow from the Big Bang, emitted when the Universe was a mere 380,000 years old. But what, exactly, does this mean? Does it mean that we're seeing the "edge" of the Universe? Does it mean that there's nothing to see, farther back beyond it? Does it mean that, as time goes on, we're going to be able to see farther back in time and space? The answers are no, no, and yes, respectively. If we want to see farther than ever before, we've got two options: either wait for more time to pass, or get moving and build that cosmic neutrino background detector.
Crime

Cocaine Use Can Now Be Tested In Fingerprints Using Ambient Mass Spectrometry 143

Posted by samzenpus
from the say-good-night-to-the-bad-guy dept.
hypnosec writes: A novel technique of detecting cocaine abuse through a simple fingerprint has been developed by researchers from the UK and the Netherlands, paving the way for a secure, non-invasive drug detection method. The research, led by University of Surrey and published in the journal Analyst, demonstrates for the first time that cocaine can be detected by the excreted metabolites – benzoylecgonine and methylecgonine – resulting from abuse of the drug. These chemicals are found in fingerprint residue, which the researchers detect using analytical chemistry technique known as ambient mass spectrometry.
NASA

NASA Announces the 3D Printed Habitat Challenge For Moon and Mars Bases 46

Posted by samzenpus
from the print-for-cash dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Space policy experts are still arguing where American astronauts should go once they venture into deep space. However, there is widespread agreement that once they get there they should be prepared to stay for longer than just a few hours or days, as was the case during the Apollo missions to the moon. Taking all the material to set up habitats, the astronauts' homes away from home, would tend to be expensive. Toward the end of lowering the cost of long duration space travel, NASA has announced the 3D Printed Habitat Challenge, in partnership with America Makes, as part of the ongoing Centennial Challenge program.
NASA

Rockwell Collins To Develop Cockpit Display To Show Sonic Boom Over Land 72

Posted by samzenpus
from the big-boom dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Under contract from NASA, Rockwell Collins is developing equipment to let pilots of supersonic craft know where a sonic boom will be produced. The hope is to make supersonic flight over land practical. Flying higher widens impacts but lessens intensity. “In order for supersonic travel over land to happen, pilots will need an intuitive display interface that tells them where the aircraft’s sonic boom is occurring,” said John Borghese, vice president, Advanced Technology Center for Rockwell Collins. “Our team of experts will investigate how best to show this to pilots in the cockpit and develop guidance to most effectively modify the aircraft’s flight path to avoid populated areas or prevent sonic booms.”
Mars

Arab Mars Probe Planned For 2020 190

Posted by Soulskill
from the more-planetary-science-is-always-good dept.
SpankiMonki sends word that 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.
Space

Ask Slashdot: Best Payloads For Asteroid Diverter/Killer Mission? 148

Posted by Soulskill
from the four-micrograms-of-nanites dept.
TheRealHocusLocus writes: The Emergency Asteroid Defence Project has launched a crowdfunded IndieGoGo campaign to help produce a set of working blueprints for a two-stage HAIV, or Hypervelocity Asteroid Intercept Vehicle. This HAIV paper (PDF) describes the use of a leading kinetic impactor to make a crater — a following nuclear warhead would detonate in the crater for maximum energy transfer. The plans would be available for philanthropists to bring to prototype stage, while your friendly local nuclear weapon state supplies the warhead. This may be a best-fit solution. But just ask Morgan Freeman: these strategies could fail. What — if any — backup strategy could be integrated into an HAIV mission as a fail-safe in case the primary fails? Here is a review of strategies (some fanciful, few deployable) if we have to divert an asteroid with very short lead time. A gentle landing on the object may not be feasible, and we must rely on things that push hard or go boom. For example: detonating nearby to ablate surface materials and create recoil in the direction we wish to nudge. Also, with multiple warheads and precise timing, would it be possible to create a "shaped" nuclear explosion in space?
Space

Russian Rocket Crashes In Siberia 96

Posted by Soulskill
from the space-stuff-is-hard dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A Russian Proton-M rocket carrying a Mexican satellite broke down shortly after launch and crashed in Siberia. Russian space agency Roscosmos is investigating the incident, but the cause is not yet known. In the video, the rocket appeared to sputter and stop providing thrust when the third-stage engine unexpectedly switched off. Communications were lost with the rocket before that happened. This comes just a couple weeks after Russia experienced another high profile rocket failure when its cargo ship bound for the International Space Station failed to reach a high enough orbit and began spinning out of control. Russia's Proton family of rockets has been in use since the 1960s, though the current Proton-M incarnation was first flown in 2001.