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NASA

A Look At Orion's Launch Abort System 9

Posted by Soulskill
from the for-really-bad-days dept.
An anonymous reader writes: With the construction of Orion, NASA's new manned spacecraft, comes the creation of a new Launch Abort System — the part of the vehicle that will get future astronauts back to Earth safely if there's a problem at launch. The Planetary Society's Jason Davis describes it: "When Orion reaches the apex of its abort flight, it is allowed to make its 180-degree flip. The capsule of astronauts, who have already realized they will not go to space today, experience a brief moment of weightlessness before the capsule starts falling back to Earth, heat shield down. The jettison motor fires, pulling the LAS away from Orion. ... Orion, meanwhile, sheds its Forward Bay Cover, a ring at the top of the capsule protecting the parachutes. Two drogue chutes deploy, stabilizing the wobbling capsule. The drogues pull out Orion's three main chutes, no doubt eliciting a sigh of relief from the spacecraft's occupants."
Mars

NASA's HI-SEAS Project Results Suggests a Women-Only Mars Crew 268

Posted by timothy
from the couple-of-jockeys-too dept.
globaljustin writes "Alan Drysdale, a systems analyst in advanced life support and a contractor with NASA concluded, "Small women haven't been demonstrated to be appreciably dumber than big women or big men, so there's no reason to choose larger people for a flight crew when it's brain power you want," says Drysdale. "The logical thing to do is to fly small women." Kate Greene, who wrote the linked article, took part in the first HI-SEAS experiment in Martian-style living, and has some compelling reasons for an all-women crew, energy efficiency chief among them: Week in and week out, the three female crew members expended less than half the calories of the three male crew members. Less than half! We were all exercising roughly the same amount—at least 45 minutes a day for five consecutive days a week—but our metabolic furnaces were calibrated in radically different ways. During one week, the most metabolically active male burned an average of 3,450 calories per day, while the least metabolically active female expended 1,475 calories per day. It was rare for a woman on crew to burn 2,000 calories in a day and common for male crew members to exceed 3,000. ... The calorie requirements of an astronaut matter significantly when planning a mission. The more food a person needs to maintain her weight on a long space journey, the more food should launch with her. The more food launched, the heavier the payload. The heavier the payload, the more fuel required to blast it into orbit and beyond. The more fuel required, the heavier the rocket becomes, which it in turn requires more fuel to launch.
Businesses

An Algorithm to End the Lines for Ice at Burning Man 279

Posted by timothy
from the that-trick's-not-so-weird dept.
Any gathering of 65,000 people in the desert is going to require some major infrastructure to maintain health and sanity. At Burning Man, some of that infrastructure is devoted to a supply chain for ice. Writes Bennett Haselton, The lines for ice bags at Burning Man could be cut from an hour long at peak times, to about five minutes, by making one small... Well, read the description below of how they do things now, and see if the same suggested change occurs to you. I'm curious whether it's the kind of idea that is more obvious to students of computer science who think algorithmically, or if it's something that could occur to anyone. Read on for the rest; Bennett's idea for better triage may bring to mind a lot of other queuing situations and ways that time spent waiting in line could be more efficiently employed.
Space

The Woman Who Should Have Been the First Female Astronaut 189

Posted by timothy
from the actually-my-grandmother-would-have-been-great-at-it-too dept.
StartsWithABang writes We like to think of the Mercury 7 — the very first group of NASA astronauts — as the "best of the best," having been chosen from a pool of over 500 of the top military test pilots after three rounds of intense physical and mental tests. Yet when women were allowed to take the same tests, one of them clearly distinguished herself, outperforming practically all of the men. If NASA had really believed in merit, Jerrie Cobb would have been the first female in space, even before Valentina Tereshkova, more than 50 years ago. She still deserves to go.
Medicine

3-D Printed "Iron Man" Prosthetic Hands Now Available For Kids 64

Posted by timothy
from the in-time-for-hallowe'en-even dept.
PC World (drawing on an article from 3DPrint.com) notes that inventor Pat Starace has released his plans for a 3-D printable prosthetic hand designed to appeal both to kids who need it and their parents (who can't all afford the cost of conventional prostheses). The hand "has the familiar gold-and-crimson color scheme favored by Ol' Shellhead, and it's designed with housings for a working gyroscope, magnetometer, accelerometer, and other "cool sensors", as well as a battery housing and room for a low-power Bluetooth chip and charging port." It takes about 48 hours in printing time (and "a lot" of support material), but the result is inexpensive and functional.
Medicine

Soda Pop Damages Your Cells' Telomeres 401

Posted by timothy
from the you-can't-just-stretch-them-back-into-place? dept.
BarbaraHudson writes Those free soft drinks at your last start-up may come with a huge hidden price tag. The Toronto Sun reports that researchers at the University of California — San Francisco found study participants who drank pop daily had shorter telomeres — the protective units of DNA that cap the ends of chromosomes in cells — in white blood cells. Short telomeres have been associated with chronic aging diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer. The researchers calculated daily consumption of a 20-ounce pop is associated with 4.6 years of additional biological aging. The effect on telomere length is comparable to that of smoking, they said. "This finding held regardless of age, race, income and education level," researcher Elissa Epel said in a press release.
NASA

NASA Cancels "Sunjammer" Solar Sail Demonstration Mission 71

Posted by timothy
from the only-tax-dollars dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Space News reports that NASA has cancelled its solar sail demonstration mission (also known as Sunjammer) citing "a lack of confidence in its contractor's ability to deliver." "Company president Nathan] Barnes said that in 2011 he reached out to several NASA centers and companies that he believed could build the spacecraft and leave L'Garde free to focus on the solar sail. None of those he approached — he only identified NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California — took him up on the offer. Rather than give up on the opportunity to land a NASA contract, L'Garde decided to bring the spacecraft development in house. It did not work out, and as of Oct. 17, the company had taken delivery of about $2 million worth of spacecraft hardware including a hydrazine tank from ATK Space Systems of Commerce, California, and four mono-propellant thrusters from Aerojet Rocketdyne of Sacramento, California."
Science

Brain Patterns Give Clues To Why Some People Just Keep Gambling 57

Posted by timothy
from the know-when-to-hold-'em dept.
Research from several UK universities, as reported by Time, indicates that the brain activity of compulsive gamblers shows a marked difference in response to pleasure-triggering behavior, which may help explain why they have trouble stopping: [The participants] took an amphetamine capsule, which unleashes endorphins with similar effects to the rush you get from exercise or alcohol, the study says. An additional PET scan revealed that pathological gamblers responded differently to the drug. They released fewer endorphins than those who didn't gamble, and they also reported lower levels of euphoria on a questionnaire afterward. This might help explain the addictive part of pathological gambling: to get pleasure from the act, problem gamblers might need more of it or to work harder for it.
Space

Watch Comet Siding Spring's Mars Fly-By, Live 33

Posted by timothy
from the buzzing-the-tower dept.
From the L.A. Times, and with enough time to tune in, comes this tip: Comet Siding Spring's closest approach to the red planet will occur at 11:27 a.m. [Pacific Time] on Sunday. At its closest approach, the comet will come within 87,000 miles of Mars. That's 10 times closer than any comet on record has ever come to Earth. Sadly, this historic flyby is not visible to the naked eye. People who live in the Southern Hemisphere have a shot at seeing the comet if they have access to a good telescope six inches or wider. However, most of us in the Northern Hemisphere will not be able to see the comet at all, experts say, no matter how big a telescope we've got. Here to save the cometary day is astronomy website Slooh.com. Beginning at 11:15 a.m PDT on Sunday, it will host a live broadcast of the comet's closest approach to Mars, as seen by the website's telescopes in South Africa and in the Canary Islands. Later in the day, beginning at 5:30 p.m. PDT, Slooh will broadcast another view of the comet from a telescope in Chile.
Medicine

Canada Will Ship 800 Doses of Experimental Ebola Drug to WHO 97

Posted by timothy
from the good-fight dept.
The WSJ reports that 800 doses of an experimental vaccine for Ebola, developed over a decade at Public Health Agency of Canada’s main laboratory in Winnipeg, will be shipped to the World Health Organization in an effort to help fight the ongoing Ebola crisis in West Africa: The vaccine will be shipped by air from Winnipeg, Manitoba, to the University Hospital of Geneva via specialized courier. The vials will be sent in three separate shipments as a precautionary measure, due to the challenges in moving a vaccine that must kept at a very low temperature at all times. ... The vaccine had shown “very promising results in animal research” and earlier this week, Ottawa announced the start of clinical trials on humans at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in the U.S. ... The government has licensed NewLink Genetics Corp. , of the U.S., through its wholly owned subsidiary BioProtection Systems Corp. to further develop the vaccine for use in humans. The government owns the intellectual property rights associated with the vaccine.
Medicine

Researchers Scrambling To Build Ebola-Fighting Robots 87

Posted by timothy
from the at-one-remove dept.
Lucas123 (935744) writes U.S. robotics researchers from around the country are collaborating on a project to build autonomous vehicles that could deliver food and medicine, and telepresence robots that could safely decontaminate equipment and help bury the victims of Ebola. Organizers of Safety Robotics for Ebola Workers are planning a workshop on Nov. 7. that will be co-hosted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Texas A&M, Worcester Polytechnic Institute and the University of California, Berkeley. "We are trying to identify the technologies that can help human workers minimize their contact with Ebola. Whatever technology we deploy, there will be a human in the loop. We are not trying to replace human caregivers. We are trying to minimize contact," said Taskin Padir, an assistant professor of robotics engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
Programming

The One App You Need On Your Resume If You Want a Job At Google 197

Posted by timothy
from the surprisingly-it's-not-I-am-Rich dept.
HughPickens.com writes Jim Edwards writes at Business Insider that Google is so large and has such a massive need for talent that if you have the right skills, Google is really enthusiastic to hear from you — especially if you know how to use MatLab, a fourth-generation programming language that allows matrix manipulations, plotting of functions and data, implementation of algorithms, creation of user interfaces, and interfacing with programs written in other languages, including C, C++, Java, Fortran and Python. The key is that data is produced visually or graphically, rather than in a spreadsheet. According to Jonathan Rosenberg , Google's former senior vice president for product management, being a master of statistics is probably your best way into Google right now and if you want to work at Google, make sure you can use MatLab. Big data — how to create it, manipulate it, and put it to good use — is one of those areas in which Google is really enthusiastic about. The sexy job in the next ten years will be statisticians. When every business has free and ubiquitous data, the ability to understand it and extract value from it becomes the complimentary scarce factor. It leads to intelligence, and the intelligent business is the successful business, regardless of its size. Rosenberg says that "my quote about statistics that I didn't use but often do is, 'Data is the sword of the 21st century, those who wield it the samurai.'"
Science

The Physics of Why Cold Fusion Isn't Real 341

Posted by timothy
from the great-thing-about-science-is-falsifiability dept.
StartsWithABang writes If you can reach the fabled "breakeven point" of nuclear fusion, you'll have opened up an entire new source of clean, reliable, safe, renewable and abundant energy. You will change the world. At present, fusion is one of those things we can make happen through a variety of methods, but — unless you're the Sun — we don't have a way to ignite and sustain that reaction without needing to input more energy than we can extract in a usable fashion from the fusion that occurs. One alternative approach to the norm is, rather than try and up the energy released in a sustained, hot fusion reaction, to instead lower the energy inputted, and try to make fusion happen under "cold" conditions. If you listen in the right (wrong?) places, you'll hear periodic reports that cold fusion is happening, even though those reports have always crumbled under scrutiny. Here's why, most likely, they always will.
Japan

High-Tech Walkers Could Help Japan's Elderly Stay Independent 34

Posted by Soulskill
from the imperial-walkers dept.
jfruh writes: You may have heard that Japan will deal with its aging population by relying more on robots. Osaka startup RT Works is showing what that might mean in practice: not humanoid robotic caregivers, but tech-enhanced versions of traditional tools like walkers. RT Works's walker automatically adjusts to help its user deal with hilly terrain, and can call for help if it moves outside a predefined range.
Science

How Curved Spacetime Can Be Created In a Quantum Optics Lab 89

Posted by Soulskill
from the please-say-lasers dept.
KentuckyFC writes: One way to explore the link between quantum mechanics and general relativity is to study the physics that occurs on a small scale in highly curved spacetimes. However, these conditions only occur in the most extreme environments such as at the edge of black holes or in the instants after the Big Bang. But now one physicist has described how it is possible to create curved spacetime in an ordinary quantum optics lab.

The idea is based on optical lattices, which form when a pair of lasers interfere to create an eggbox-like interference pattern. When ultracold atoms are dropped into the lattice, they become trapped like ping pong balls in an eggbox. This optical trapping technique is common in labs all over the world. However, the ultracold atoms do not stay at a fixed location in the lattice because they can tunnel from one location to another. This tunneling is a form of movement through the lattice and can be controlled by changing the laser parameters to make tunneling easier or more difficult.

Now, a physicist has shown that on a large scale, the tunneling motion of atoms through the lattice is mathematically equivalent to the motion of atoms in a quantum field in a flat spacetime. And that means it is possible to create a formal analogue of a curved spacetime by changing the laser parameters across the lattice. Varying the laser parameters over time even simulates the behavior of gravitational waves. Creating this kind of curved spacetime in the lab won't reveal any new physics but it will allow researchers to study the behavior of existing laws under these conditions for the first time. That's not been possible even in theory because the equations that describe these behaviors are so complex that they can only be solved in the simplest circumstances.
Medicine

Chemists Grow Soil Fungus On Cheerios, Discover New Antifungal Compounds 77

Posted by Soulskill
from the part-of-a-balanced-and-really-disgusting-breakfast dept.
MTorrice writes: Many drugs that treat bacterial and fungal infections were found in microbes growing in the dirt. These organisms synthesize the compounds to fend off other bacteria and fungi around them. To find possible new drugs, chemists try to coax newly discovered microbial species to start making their arsenal of antimicrobial chemicals in the lab. But fungi can be stubborn, producing just a small set of already-known compounds.

Now, one team of chemists has hit upon a curiously effective and consistent trick to prod the organisms to start synthesizing novel molecules: Cheerios inside bags. Scientists grew a soil fungus for four weeks in a bag full of Cheerios and discovered a new compound that can block biofilm formation by an infectious yeast. The chemists claim that Cheerios are by far the best in the cereal aisle at growing chemically productive fungi.
Patents

Trans-Pacific Partnership May Endanger World Health, Newly Leaked Chapter Shows 127

Posted by samzenpus
from the keeper-of-the-pills dept.
blottsie writes WikiLeaks has released an updated version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) chapter on intellectual property. The new version of the texts, dated May 2014, show that little improvement has been made to sections critics say would hurt free speech online. Further, some of the TPP's stipulations could have dire consequences for healthcare in developing nations. The Daily Dot reports: "Nearly all of the changes proposed by the U.S. advantage corporate entities by expanding monopolies on knowledge goods, such as drug patents, and impose restrictive copyright policies worldwide. If it came into force, TPP would even allow pharmaceutical companies to sue the U.S. whenever changes to regulatory standards or judicial decisions affected their profits. Professor Brook K. Baker of Northeastern U. School of Law [said] that the latest version of the TPP will do nothing less than lengthen, broaden, and strengthen patent monopolies on vital medications."
United States

White House Wants Ideas For "Bootstrapping a Solar System Civilization" 348

Posted by samzenpus
from the to-the-stars dept.
MarkWhittington writes Tom Kalil, the Deputy Director for Policy for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Senior Advisor for Science, Technology and Innovation for the National Economic Council, has an intriguing Tuesday post on the OSTP blog. Kalil is soliciting ideas for "bootstrapping a solar system civilization." Anyone interested in offering ideas along those lines to the Obama administration can contact a special email address that has been set up for that purpose. The ideas that Kalil muses about in his post are not new for people who have studied the question of how to settle space at length. The ideas consist of sending autonomous robots to various locations in space to create infrastructure using local resources with advanced manufacturing technology, such as 3D printing. The new aspect is that someone in the White House is publicly discussing these concepts.
Space

Saturn's 'Death Star' Moon May Hide Subsurface Ocean 48

Posted by samzenpus
from the that's-no-ocean dept.
astroengine writes With its heavily cratered, geologically dead surface, Saturn's moon Mimas was considered to be scientifically boring. But appearances can be deceiving. Using data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, new research shows something strange inside Mimas that is causing the moon to sway as it orbits around the ringed gas giant. Computer models point to two possibilities. First is that Mimas, which is about 250 miles in diameter, has an oblong or football-shaped core, a clue that the moon may have formed inside Saturn's ice rings. The second option is that Mimas has a global ocean located 16 miles to 19 miles beneath its icy crust.
Science

Scientists Find Rats Aren't Smarter Than Mice, and That's Important 154

Posted by Soulskill
from the take-that-nicodemus dept.
HughPickens.com writes: There has long been a clear hierarchy of intelligence in the psychology lab, with monkeys are at the top, then rats, and finally mice at the bottom, "cute and fluffy but not all that bright." For at least a hundred years, researchers have used rats in their psychology experiments, assuming that they were the smarter of the two lab rodents. Now, Rose Eveleth reports at The Atlantic that new research shows this might not be true, suggesting mice can perform decision-making tasks in the lab just as well as rats can. "Anything we could train a rat to do we could train a mouse to do as well," says Tony Zador. This finding is important because using mice in experiments instead of rats could open up all kinds of new research options. For one thing, scientists have been able to manipulate a mouse's genome in really useful ways, silencing certain genes to figure out what role they play. There are mouse models for everything from Alzheimer's to Parkinson's. Being able to put those mice through the paces of a psychology experiment could help researchers connect diseases with the behaviors they impact.

So where did this idea that rats are smarter than mice come from, anyway? Zador says it's a historical bias. "There was 100 years of practice in training rats. And basically when people tried to treat the mice in exactly the way they treated the rats, the rats seemed smarter," says Zador. In other words, "over the course of 100 years people had figured out how to train rats, and that mice aren't rats." You might think that mice and rats would be basically the same when it comes to these kinds of things, but Zador points out that mice and rats diverged somewhere between 12 and 24 million years ago. For comparison, humans and chimpanzees split somewhere between 5 and 7 million years ago. So it's no surprise that mice behave differently than rats, and that the difference impacts their training in the lab. "The mouse is uniquely placed at the interface between experimental access and behavioral complexity, making it an ideal model for the study of adaptive decision-making. Successful behavioral paradigms, however, rely on targeting designs to the idiosyncrasies of the mouse from the outset, rather than simply assuming that mice are little rats."

Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurence of the improbable. - H. L. Mencken

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