Why Meteoroids Explode Before Hitting the Earth

science - Posted On:2017-12-13 02:14:58 Source: slashdot

According to a new study from Purdue University, scientists have figured out why meteoroids explode before hitting the Earth. "The research, published in the December issue of the journal Meteoritics & Planetary Science, shows that as meteoroids plunge, the high-pressure air they push against find its way into the objects' pores and cracks, forcing their bodies apart from the inside," reports Quartz. "The result is a kind of detonation that looks like an explosion." From the report: To explain the astrophysics, researchers focused their work on a widely viewed February 2013 meteoroid explosion place over Chelyabinsk, Russia, a city of 1.1 million north of the Kazakhstan border. Researchers ran a computer program that allowed for them to simulate what happened to the meteoroid in the atmosphere. "Our simulations reveal a previously unrecognized process in which the penetration of high-pressure air into the body of the meteoroid greatly enhances the deformation and facilitates the breakup of meteoroids similar to the size of Chelyabinsk," the study states. The researchers added that while the air pressure is effective at breaking apart small meteoroids, larger ones would likely withstand the force as they come to Earth. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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FDA is not cuckoo for Coco Loko, a chocolatey alternative to snorting cocaine

Science - Posted On:2017-12-12 18:29:59 Source: arstechnica

In July, US Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer held a press conference to denounce a chocolate-flavored energy powder meant for snorting, called Coco Loko. He dubbed it “cocaine on training wheels” and called on the Food and Drug Administration to investigate.

The agency did, it turns out. And though regulators didn’t come up with a description quite as catchy as Schumer’s, their assessment of Coco Loko was even more damning.

Regulators determined that the powder was an unapproved new drug and that its maker, Legal Lean, was unlawfully marketing it, according to a Tuesday announcement. Moreover, the agency also looked into another product by the company, Legal Lean Syrup. The agency found that it, too, was an unapproved drug. The syrup contained an undisclosed sedative, doxylamine, which is found in the over-the-counter sleep-aid Unisom.

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We can make plants pass out—with the same drugs that mysteriously knock us out

Science - Posted On:2017-12-12 13:00:00 Source: arstechnica

A verdant garden, softly draped with all manner of greenery, is a tranquil setting to most. But to scientists, it can be tranquilized further.

Just like humans, plants can succumb to the effects of general anesthetic drugs, researchers report this week in the Annals of Botany. The finding is striking for a variety of reasons—there’s the pesky fact that plants lack a central nervous system, for one thing. But, perhaps more noteworthy is that scientists still aren’t sure how general anesthetics work on humans—let alone plants. Despite that, doctors have been using the drugs daily for more than a century to knock people out and avert pain during surgeries and other medical procedures. Yet the drugs’ exact effects on our body’s cells and electrical signals remain elusive.

The authors of the new study, led by Italian and German plant biologists, suggest that plants could help us—once and for all—figure out the drugs’ mechanism of action. Moreover, the researchers are hopeful that after that’s sorted out, plants could be a useful tool to study and develop new anesthetic drugs. “As plants in general, and the model plant [Arabidopsis] thaliana in particular, are suitable to experimental manipulation (they do not run away) and allow easy electrical recordings, we propose them as ideal model objects to study anaesthesia and to serve as a suitable test system for human anaesthesia,” they conclude.

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Synthetic DNA-Based Drug Is First To Slow Progress of Huntington's Disease

science - Posted On:2017-12-11 22:44:58 Source: slashdot

John.Banister writes: The Guardian reports of early success in the trial of a synthetic DNA based drug, Ionis-HTTRx, at University College London's Huntington's Disease Center. Bionews explains that this gene silencing drug binds to the RNA transcript of the faulty huntingtin gene, triggering its destruction before it can go on to make the huntingtin protein. There's much excited speculation that the same technique could be used for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, once people know which genes to target. "The trial involved 46 men and women with early stage Huntington's disease in the UK, Germany and Canada," reports The Guardian. "The patients were given four spinal injections one month apart and the drug dose was increased at each session; roughly a quarter of participants had a placebo injection. After being given the drug, the concentration of harmful protein in the spinal cord fluid dropped significantly and in proportion with the strength of the dose. This kind of closely matched relationship normally indicates a drug is having a powerful effect." Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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President Trump Is Sending NASA Back To The Moon

science - Posted On:2017-12-11 16:30:00 Source: slashdot

President Trump has formally told NASA to send U.S. astronauts back to the moon. From a report: "The directive I'm signing today will refocus America's space program on human exploration and discovery," he said. Standing at the president's side as he signed "Space Policy Directive 1" on Monday was Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt, one of the last two humans to ever walk on the moon, in a mission that took place 45 years ago this week. Since that time, no human has ventured out beyond low-Earth orbit. NASA doesn't even have its own space vehicle, having retired the space shuttles in 2011. Americans currently ride up to the international space station in Russian capsules, though private space taxis are expected to start ferrying them up as soon as next year. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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President Trump says we’re going back to the Moon

Science - Posted On:2017-12-11 16:00:00 Source: arstechnica

NASA has had a big problem since the agency triumphantly landed humans on the Moon nearly half a century ago. Namely, after the Apollo landings delivered a solid US victory in the Cold War, human exploration has no longer aligned with the strategic national interest. In other words, sending humans into space has represented a nice projection of soft power, but it has not been essential to America's domestic and foreign policy aims.

As a result, NASA's share of the federal budget has declined from just shy of five percent at the height of the Apollo program to less than 0.5 percent today. At the same time, NASA's mandate has grown to encompass a broad array of Earth science, planetary science, and other missions that consume more than half of the agency's budget.

With less buying power for human exploration, NASA has had to scale back its ambitions; and as a result, astronauts have not ventured more than a few hundred miles from Earth since 1972. Twice before, presidents have attempted to break free of low-Earth orbit by proposing a human return to the Moon, with eventual missions to Mars. President George H.W. Bush did so with the Space Exploration Initiative in 1989, on the 20th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. And George W. Bush did so in 2004, with the Vision for Space Exploration. Neither of these were bad concepts—indeed, both offered bold, ambitious goals for the space agency—but they died due to a lack of commitment and funding.

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SpaceX has a momentous launch this week

Science - Posted On:2017-12-11 09:14:57 Source: arstechnica

SpaceX will attempt to launch its 17th mission of 2017 on Tuesday, a cargo supply flight to the International Space Station. Liftoff is scheduled for 11:46am ET, and weather conditions are expected to be near perfect, with a 90 percent chance of go conditions.

This flight is notable for several reasons. Already this year SpaceX has re-flown one of its Falcon 9 rockets, and reused a Dragon spacecraft for a station supply mission. This mission will combine both, marking the first time SpaceX has used a "flight proven" booster for a NASA launch and combined it with a used Dragon spacecraft. This booster first flew in July (also on an ISS cargo mission), and the spacecraft first flew to the station in 2015.

The launch attempt also marks a return to an old launch pad for the California-based company. When a Falcon 9 and its satellite payload blew up in September, 2016, the explosion did significant damage to Space Launch Complex 40 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The launch pad has been out of service since then.

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Google's Machine Learning Is Analyzing Data From NASA's Kepler Space Telescope

science - Posted On:2017-12-11 03:44:57 Source: slashdot

NASA writes: NASA will host a media teleconference at 1 p.m. EST Thursday, Dec. 14, to announce the latest discovery made by its planet-hunting Kepler space telescope. The discovery was made by researchers using machine learning from Google. Machine learning is an approach to artificial intelligence, and demonstrates new ways of analyzing Kepler data... When Kepler launched in March 2009, scientists didn't know how common planets were beyond our solar system. Thanks to Kepler's treasure trove of discoveries, astronomers now believe there may be at least one planet orbiting every star in the sky. Space.com adds: Kepler spots alien worlds by noticing the tiny brightness dips they cause when they cross the face of their host star from the spacecraft's perspective. Kepler is the most accomplished planet hunter in history. It has found more than 2,500 confirmed alien worlds -- about 70 percent of all known exoplanets -- along with a roughly equal number of "candidates" that await confirmation by follow-up observations or analyses. The vast majority of these discoveries have come via observations that Kepler made during its original mission, which ran from 2009 to 2013. Study of these data sets is ongoing; over the past few years, researchers have used improved analysis techniques to spot many exoplanets in data that Kepler gathered a half-decade ago or more. Space.com describes Thursday's announcement as an exoplanet discovery. (Earlier they reported on the discovery of "a possibly habitable alien world" about 2.2 times the size of earth orbiting a dwarf star "within the range of distances where liquid water could exist on a world's surface".) Slashdot reader schwit1 points out that other less-credible sites speculate NASA's announcement will be "a major discovery about life beyond earth." Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Researchers Say Human Lifespans Have Already Hit Their Peak

science - Posted On:2017-12-10 19:29:59 Source: slashdot

An anonymous reader quotes Newsweek: We have reached our peak in terms of lifespan, athletic performance and height, according to a new survey of research and historical records... "These traits no longer increase, despite further continuous nutritional, medical, and scientific progress," said Jean-Franois Toussaint, a physiologist at Paris Descartes University, France, in a press release... For the study, published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology, a team of French scientists, including Toussaint, from a range of fields analyzed 120 years' worth of historical records and previous research to gauge the varying pace of changes seen in human athletic performance, human lifespan and human height. While, as they observe, the 20th century saw a surge in improvements in all three areas that mirrored industrial, medical and scientific advances, the pace of those advances has slowed significantly in recent years. The team looked at world records in a variety of sports, including running, swimming, skating, cycling and weight-lifting. Olympic athletes in those sports continually toppled records by impressive margins from the early 1900s to the end of the 20th century, according the study. But since then, Olympic records have shown just incremental improvements. We have stopped not only getting faster and stronger, according to the study, but also growing taller... [D]ata from the last three decades suggest that heights have plateaued among high-income countries in North America and Europe... As for our human lifespan, life expectancy in high-income countries rose by about 30 years from 1900 to 2000, according to a National Institutes of Health study cited by the authors, thanks to better nutrition, hygiene, vaccines and other medical improvements. But we may have maxed out our biological limit for longevity. The researchers found that in many human populations, says Toussaint, "it's more and more difficult to show progress in lifespan despite the advances of science." Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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NASA and Amiga history meet in an eBay listing

Science - Posted On:2017-12-10 15:45:00 Source: arstechnica

If our 11-part series on the history of the Amiga and our (in-progress) seven-part series on the history of the Apollo program don't give it away, we happen to be unabashed fans of a certain computing platform and a certain space program around the Ars Orbital HQ. So this week, a small post at HotHardware inevitably caught our eye: an old NASA-used Amiga evidently ended up for sale on eBay.

Seller vrus currently lists an Amiga 2500 used by NASA's Telemetry Lab for sale. How can anyone be certain this 1980s workhorse came from the US government? Well, the device is emblazoned with NASA property seals that seem to match tags found on other decommissioned NASA hardware. vrus also includes screenshots of programs on the computer that appear to be registered to a Dave Brown (HotHardware notes Brown was a principal programmer at Cape Canaveral's telemetry lab in the 1990s as per a 1999 Q&A with NASA retiree Hal Greenlee and comments from Greenlee in the "Amigas at NASA" video below).

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New Satellite Experiment Helps Confirm Einstein's Equivalence Principle

science - Posted On:2017-12-10 10:59:57 Source: slashdot

Part of Einstein's theory of general relativity posits that gravity equals inertial mass -- and for the first time in 10 years, there's new evidence that he's right. Slashdot reader orsayman reports: Most stories around space today seem to revolve around SpaceX, but let's not forget that space is also a place for cool physics experiments. One such experiment currently running into low orbit is the MICROSCOPE satellite launched in 2016 to test the (weak) Equivalence Principle (also knows as the universality of free fall) a central hypothesis in General Relativity. The first results confirm the principle with a precision ten times better than previous experiments. And it's just the beginning since they hope to increase the precision by another factor of 10. If the Equivalence Principle is still verified at this precision, this could constrain or invalidate some quantum gravity theories. For those of you who are more satellite-science oriented, the satellite also features an innovative "self destruct" mechanism (meant to limit orbit pollution) based on inflatable structures described in this paper. "The science phase of the mission began in December 2016," reports France's space agency, "and has already collected data from 1,900 orbits, the equivalent of a free fall of 85 million kilometres or half the Earth-Sun distance." Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Looks like a rough flu season ahead. Here are answers to ALL your flu questions

Science - Posted On:2017-12-09 14:14:59 Source: arstechnica

The 2017-2018 flu season is off to an early start, potentially hitting highs during the end-of-year holidays. Data so far suggests it could be a doozy. The predominant virus currently circulating tends to cause more cases of severe disease and death than other seasonal varieties. And the batch of vaccines for this year have some notable weaknesses.

To help you prepare—or just help you brush up on your flu facts—here are answers to every critical flu question you might ever have (well, hopefully). We’ll start off with the basics...

The flu, or influenza, is a contagious respiratory infection caused by the influenza virus (not to be confused with Haemophilus influenzae, an opportunistic bacterium that can cause secondary infections following sicknesses, such as the flu). Symptoms of the flu include chills, fever, headache, malaise, running nose, sore throat, coughing, tiredness, and muscle aches.

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This year’s flu season is upon us—and it looks bad. Here’s what you should know

Science - Posted On:2017-12-09 13:30:00 Source: arstechnica

The 2017-2018 flu season is off to an early start, potentially hitting highs during the end-of-year holidays. Data so far suggests it could be a doozy. The predominant virus currently circulating tends to cause more cases of severe disease and death than other seasonal varieties. And the batch of vaccines for this year have some notable weaknesses.

To help you prepare—or just help you brush up on your flu facts—here are answers to every critical flu question you might ever have (well, hopefully). We’ll start off with the basics...

The flu, or influenza, is a contagious respiratory infection caused by the influenza virus (not to be confused with Haemophilus influenzae, an opportunistic bacterium that can cause secondary infections following sicknesses, such as the flu). Symptoms of the flu include chills, fever, headache, malaise, running nose, sore throat, coughing, tiredness, and muscle aches.

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Reading Information Aloud To Yourself Improves Memory

science - Posted On:2017-12-09 05:14:57 Source: slashdot

According to a study in the journal Memory, reading aloud works by creating a "production effect" which cements information in your memory. Meanwhile, hearing words said in your own voice personalizes the references and enhances recollection, according to psychology professor Colin MacLeod and researchers from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. Quartz reports: The findings are based on a study of 95 students (75 of whom returned for a second session) at the University of Waterloo. The students were tested on their ability to recall written information inputted in four different ways -- reading silently, hearing someone else read, listening to a recording of oneself reading, and reading aloud in real time. They were tested on recollection of short, four-to-six letter words on a list of 160 terms. The results show that reading information aloud to oneself led to the best recall. Oral production is effective because it has two distinctive components, a motor or speech act and a personal auditory input, the researchers explain. "[The] results suggest that production is memorable in part because it includes a distinctive, self-referential component. This may well underlie why rehearsal is so valuable in learning and remembering," the study concludes. "We do it ourselves, and we do it in our own voice. When it comes time to recover the information, we can use this distinctive component to help us to remember." Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Bad news: Warmest climate models might also be most accurate

Science - Posted On:2017-12-08 16:30:00 Source: arstechnica

Some people who reject the conclusions of climate science claim that the existence of any remaining uncertainty means few or no actions need be taken to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. In reality, though, uncertainty is ever-present in science, and it's not necessarily our friend. A new study from Patrick Brown and Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science highlights the fact that uncertainty means climate change could just as easily be worse than our best current estimates predict.

The study sought to narrow the range of projected global warming presented in places like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports. For each of several scenarios of future greenhouse gas emissions, these reports have simply taken simulations from every climate model available and combined the results—showing the average temperature trajectory and the range they span. For the highest-emissions scenario, for example, the last IPCC report projected about 4.3 °C (7.7 °F) warming by the late 21st century. But the range of model results stretched from about 3.2 °C to 5.4 °C.

One strategy for dealing with this variance has been to weight the results of the best-performing models more highly. The difficulty is in confidently assessing which models are the best-performing ones. A handful of studies have used some aspect of cloud behavior as the measuring stick. That work has found that the models best simulating current cloud behavior also happen to simulate more future warming.

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'Nature' Editorial Juxtaposes FOIA Email Release With Illegal Hacking

science - Posted On:2017-12-08 14:00:00 Source: slashdot

Jason Koebler and Sarah Emerson, reporting for Motherboard: Private emails between scientists working on a controversial genetic technology called "gene drive" were released last week. Obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, their publication has been criticized by some as an attempt to discredit the science community. Gene drives are a genetic engineering approach with huge implications. They're meant to seed genetic traits -- one that stops mosquitoes from carrying malaria, for instance, or hampers invasive rodents' ability to reproduce -- in a population, and with terrifyingly high odds of inheritance. If things go wrong, gene drives could destabilize ecosystems. (So far, they've only been applied to yeast, fruit flies, and mosquitoes in a lab setting.) More ideally, they could wipe out deadly plagues by targeting their vectors, or give threatened species a fighting chance. Like any young technology, there are a lot of unknowns, and stakeholders are hoping to provide clarity at the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity next year; the same convention where a proposed gene drive moratorium was rejected in 2016. The emails and other documents reveal details about gene drive's biggest funders, including DARPA, the US military's research agency. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Almost All Bronze Age Artifacts Were Made From Meteorite Iron

science - Posted On:2017-12-08 08:14:56 Source: slashdot

dryriver shares a report from Science Alert: According to a new study, it's possible that all iron-based weapons and tools of the Bronze Age were forged using metal salvaged from meteorites. The finding has given experts a better insight into how these tools were created before humans worked out how to produce iron from its ore. While previous studies had found specific Bronze Age objects to be made from meteoric metal -- like one of the daggers buried with King Tutankhamun -- this latest research answers the question of just how widespread the practice was. Albert Jambon, from the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France, studied museum artifacts from Egypt, Turkey, Syria, and China, analyzing them using an X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometer to discover they all shared the same off-world origins. "The present results complementing high quality analyses from the literature suggest that most or all irons from the Bronze Age are derived from meteoritic iron," writes Jambon in his published paper. "The next step will be to determine where and when terrestrial iron smelting appeared for the first time." Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Boeing CEO Says Boeing Will Beat SpaceX To Mars

science - Posted On:2017-12-08 02:14:57 Source: slashdot

Boeing's CEO says the megarocket his company is helping to build for NASA will deliver astronauts to the Red Planet before billionaire Elon Musk's SpaceX. Space.com reports: According to Fortune, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg was speaking on CNBC today when host Jim Cramer asked whether Boeing or SpaceX would "get a man on Mars first." "Eventually we're going to go to Mars, and I firmly believe the first person that sets foot on Mars will get there on a Boeing rocket," Muilenburg said, according to Fortune. Boeing is the main contractor for the first stage of NASA's giant Space Launch System , which is designed to launch astronauts on deep-space missions using the space agency's new Orion spacecraft. (United Launch Alliance, Orbital ATK and Aerojet Rocketdyne are also SLS contractors.) NASA hopes to build a "Deep Space Gateway" near the moon before using SLS and Orion vehicles to send explorers to Mars. The first test launch is scheduled for 2019. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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What It Looks Like When You Fry Your Eye In An Eclipse

science - Posted On:2017-12-07 19:14:59 Source: slashdot

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: Doctors in New York say a woman in her 20s came in three days after looking at the Aug. 21 eclipse without protective glasses. She had peeked several times, for about six seconds, when the sun was only partially covered by the moon. Four hours later, she started experiencing blurred and distorted vision and saw a central black spot in her left eye. The doctors studied her eyes with several different imaging technologies, described in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology, and were able to observe the damage at the cellular level. "We were very surprised at how precisely concordant the imaged damage was with the crescent shape of the eclipse itself," noted Dr. Avnish Deobhakta, an assistant professor of ophthalmology at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine, in an email to NPR. He says this was the most severely injured patient they saw after the eclipse. All in all, 22 people came to their urgent care clinic with concerns about possible eclipse-related damage, and most of them complained of blurred vision. Of those, only three showed some degree of abnormality in the retina. Two of them had only mild changes, however, and their symptoms have gone away. The young woman described in this case report, at last check, still has not recovered normal vision. For your viewing pleasure, The Verge has embedded several images of the woman's retinas in their report. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Boeing: We are going to beat SpaceX to Mars

Science - Posted On:2017-12-07 13:15:00 Source: arstechnica

It was about a year ago that Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg first began saying his company would beat SpaceX to Mars. "I'm convinced that the first person to step foot on Mars will arrive there riding on a Boeing rocket," he said during a Boeing-sponsored tech summit in Chicago in October 2016.

On Thursday, Muilenburg repeated that claim on CNBC. Moreover, he added this tidbit about the Space Launch System rocket—for which Boeing is the prime contractor of the core stage—"We’re going to take a first test flight in 2019 and we’re going to do a slingshot mission around the Moon."

Unlike last year, Muilenburg drew a response from SpaceX this time. The company's founder, Elon Musk, offered a pithy response on Twitter: "Do it."

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