Tech News

Smaller, more efficient tokamak could follow in ITER’s fusion footsteps 

Science - Posted On:2020-10-27 06:59:57 Source: arstechnica

Depending on who you ask, fusion power is either already here (but no one will purchase my sekrit design!), never going to happen (so stop wasting money!), or a difficult problem that might be a partial solution to an even more difficult problem. The last, being the view of scientists who actually work in the field, is often lost in all the noise.

Out of this fog of discussion, a passel of papers emerged recently, all focused on a proposed fusion project: the SPARC tokamak. One of the surprising things about SPARC is its size. Coming in at just over 3m across, SPARC will be smaller than currently operating tokamaks, like JET, which is nearly 6m across. ITER, currently under construction in France, is over 12m across. Yet SPARC and ITER are projected to have about the same performance. Both are expected to produce more energy from fusion than the direct input energy, though neither is expected to produce useful power.

So why the difference? And what does this latest batch of papers tell us about the design?

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New Nuclear Engine Concept Could Help Realize 3-Month Trips To Mars

science - Posted On:2020-10-27 03:14:58 Source: slashdot

Seattle-based Ultra Safe Nuclear Technologies (USNC-Tech) has developed a concept for a new Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) engine that they claim is safer and more reliable than previous NTP designs and with far greater efficiency than a chemical rocket. The concept could reduce Earth-Mars travel time to just three months. New Atlas reports: According to Dr. Michael Eades, principal engineer at USNC-Tech, the new concept engine is more reliable than previous NTP designs and can produce twice the specific impulse of a chemical rocket. Specific impulse is a measure of a rocket's efficiency. To fuel the concept, UNSC-Tech uses a Fully Ceramic Micro-encapsulated (FCM) fuel to power the engine's reactor. This fuel is based on High-Assay Low Enriched Uranium (HALEU), which is derived from reprocessed civilian nuclear fuel and is enriched to between 5 and 20 percent -- greater than that of civilian reactors and less than that of naval reactors. The fuel is then encapsulated into particles coated with zirconium carbide (ZrC). The company claims that this fuel is much more rugged than conventional nuclear fuels and can operate at high temperatures. This produces safer reactor designs and a high thrust and specific impulse that could previously only be obtained with highly-enriched uranium. In addition, such fuel can be produced with current supply chains and manufacturing plants. It is hoped the new concept could lead to nuclear engines that reduce deep space mission times drastically, with a crewed mission to Mars arriving in as little as three months. Beyond that, the concept is aimed at a commercial market as well as with NASA and the US Department of Defense, allowing for more ambitious private missions. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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No Implants Needed For Precise Control Deep Into the Brain

science - Posted On:2020-10-26 23:44:58 Source: slashdot

An anonymous reader quotes a report from IEEE Spectrum: In April, Guoping Feng and colleagues at MIT, along with [Karl Deisseroth, a neuroscientist and bioengineer at Stanford University] demonstrated a minimally invasive optogenetic system that required drilling a small hole in the skull, then being able to control opsin-expressing neurons six millimeters deep into the brain using blue light. This approach used of a type of opsin that slowly activates neurons in a step-wise manner. In the most recent study [published in the journal Nature Biotechnology], Deisseroth and colleagues sought to instead enable both deep and fast optogenetics without surgery. The Stanford team expressed in the brain cells of mice a powerful new opsin called ChRmine (pronounced like the deep-red color "carmine"), discovered by Deisseroth's group last year in a marine organism. Then, they shined a red light outside the skull and were able to activate neural circuits in the midbrain and brainstem at depths of up to 7 millimeters. With the technique, the scientists turned on and off brain circuits with millisecond precision. "It really worked well, far better than we even expected might be possible," says Deisseroth. The team then tested the effectiveness of the system. In one instance, they used light to quickly and precisely stop seizures in epileptic mice, and in another to turn on serotonin-producing neurons to promote social behavior in mice. Most optogenetic techniques involve injecting viruses with an opsin gene of choice directly into the brain with a needle. To avoid this, the Stanford team used a type of PHP virus developed at CalTech that can be injected in the blood. The virus then crosses the blood-brain barrier to deliver its payload, an opsin gene, to brain cells. In this case, even the delivery of the gene is noninvasive -- no needle penetrates the brain. Deisseroth's team is now testing the non-invasive technique in fish and collaborating with others to apply it to non-human primates. They're also working with the Seattle-based Allen Institute to develop mouse lines bred with ChRmine in their cells. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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NASA Confirms Water Molecules On Moon

science - Posted On:2020-10-26 17:00:00 Source: slashdot

NASA has confirmed the presence of water on the moon's sunlit surface, a breakthrough that suggests the chemical compound that is vital to life on Earth could be distributed across more parts of the lunar surface than the ice that has previously been found in dark and cold areas. From a report: "We don't know yet if we can use it as a resource," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said, but he added that learning more about the water is crucial to U.S. plans to explore the moon. The discovery comes from the space agency's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA -- a modified Boeing 747 that can take its large telescope high into Earth's atmosphere, at altitudes up to 45,000 feet. Those heights allow researchers to peer at objects in space with hardly any visual disruptions from water vapor. The water molecules are in Clavius crater, a large crater in the moon's southern hemisphere. To detect the molecules, SOFIA used a special infrared camera that can discern between water's specific wavelength of 6.1 microns and that of its close chemical relative hydroxyl, or OH. "Data from this location reveal water in concentrations of 100 to 412 parts per million -- roughly equivalent to a 12-ounce bottle of water -- trapped in a cubic meter of soil spread across the lunar surface," NASA said in a release about the discovery. "This is not puddles of water but instead water molecules that are so spread apart that they do not form ice or liquid water," said Casey Honniball, the lead author of a study about the discovery. The data confirm what experts have suspected, that water might exist on the moon's sunny side. But in recent years, researchers had been able to document only water ice at the moon's poles and other darker and colder areas. Experts will now try to figure out exactly how the water came to form and why it persists. NASA scientists published their findings in the latest issue of Nature Astronomy. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Water found in new locations on the Moon, may be trapped in glass

Science - Posted On:2020-10-26 16:45:00 Source: arstechnica

Despite its proximity to a very blue planet, the Earth's Moon appeared to be completely dry, with samples returned by the Apollo missions being nearly devoid of water. But in recent years, a number of studies have turned up what appears to be water in some locations on the Moon, although the evidence wasn't always decisive.

Today, NASA is announcing that it has used an airborne observatory to spot clear indications of water in unexpected places. But the water may be in a form that makes accessing it much harder. Separately, an analysis of spots where water could be easier to reach indicates that there's more potential reservoirs than we'd previously suspected.

With no atmosphere and low gravity, the Moon can't hang on to water on its surface. The first time that sunlight heats lunar water up, it will form a vapor and eventually escape into space. But there are regions on the Moon, primarily near the poles, that are permanently shadowed. There, temperatures remain perpetually low, and ice can survive indefinitely. And, to test this possibility, NASA crashed some hardware into a shady area near the Moon's south pole and found water vapor amidst the debris.

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Vaccine Hopes Rise as Oxford Jab Prompts Immune Response Among Old as Well as Young Adults

science - Posted On:2020-10-26 15:44:59 Source: slashdot

One of the world's leading COVID-19 experimental vaccines produces an immune response in both young and old adults, raising hopes of a path out of the gloom and economic destruction wrought by the novel coronavirus. From a report: The vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford, also triggers lower adverse responses among the elderly, British drug maker AstraZeneca Plc, which is helping manufacture the vaccine, said on Monday. A vaccine that works is seen as a game-changer in the battle against the novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 1.15 million people, shuttered swathes of the global economy and turned normal life upside down for billions of people. "It is encouraging to see immunogenicity responses were similar between older and younger adults and that reactogenicity was lower in older adults, where the COVID-19 disease severity is higher," an AstraZeneca spokesman said. "The results further build the body of evidence for the safety and immunogenicity of AZD1222," the spokesman said, referring to the technical name of the vaccine. The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to be one of the first from big pharma to secure regulatory approval, along with Pfizer and BioNTech's candidate, as the world tries to plot a path out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Santas scrooged by Trump admin after bizarre vaccine deal goes south

Science - Posted On:2020-10-26 13:45:00 Source: arstechnica

The Department of Health and Human Services has abandoned a deal to vaccinate Santa Claus performers as part of a $250-million taxpayer-funded public relations blitz, The Wall Street Journal reports.

According to the nixed Santa plan, performers would have received special early access to a future vaccine against the pandemic coronavirus. In exchange, the Santa Clauses, Mrs. Clauses, and accompanying elves would have promoted the vaccine to the public and participated in regional holiday events organized by the Trump administration.

The deal was reportedly gifted from the troubled mind of Michael Caputo, the HHS spokesperson installed by the White House in April. Caputo had no background in health when he took the position. Instead, he was reportedly placed in the department as a way for the Trump administration to assert more control over HHS Secretary Alex Azar. Caputo is a Trump loyalist, protégé of Roger Stone, and former Moscow-based political adviser who worked on public relations for Vladimir Putin.

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With turbopump issues “sorted out,” BE-4 rocket engine moves into production

Science - Posted On:2020-10-26 11:15:01 Source: arstechnica

Blue Origin appears to have solved some development issues related to the turbopumps in its powerful BE-4 rocket engine.

United Launch Alliance chief executive Tory Bruno said Friday that the problem was "sorted out," and that the full-scale, flight-configured BE-4 engine is now accumulating a lot of time on the test stand. Bruno made his comments about one hour into The Space Show with David Livingston.

Bruno's company, ULA, is buying the BE-4 engine to provide thrust for the first stage of its upcoming Vulcan-Centaur rocket. This booster may make its debut next year, although ULA is still awaiting delivery of BE-4s for the first flight. Two of these large engine—each providing about 25 percent more thrust than the RS-25s used on the Space Shuttle—will power each Vulcan rocket.

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Vint Cerf Is Working on an Internet for Outer Space

science - Posted On:2020-10-26 07:44:57 Source: slashdot

"TCP/IP doesn't work at interplanetary distances," 77-year-old Vinton Cerf tells Quanta magazine. "So we designed a set of protocols that do." Specifically, bundle protocols: a disruption/delay-tolerant networking (DTN) protocol with nodes that can also store information: A data packet traveling from Earth to Jupiter might, for example, go through a relay on Mars, Cerf explained. However, when the packet arrives at the relay, some 40 million miles into the 400-million-mile journey, Mars may not be oriented properly to send the packet on to Jupiter. "Why throw the information away, instead of hanging on to it until Jupiter shows up?" Cerf said. This store-and-forward feature allows bundles to navigate toward their destinations one hop at a time, despite large disruptions and delays... So, a couple decades after conceiving of bundle protocols, is the interplanetary internet up and running? We don't have to build the whole thing and then hope somebody uses it. We sought to get standards in place, as we have for the internet; offer those standards freely; and then achieve interoperability so that the various spacefaring nations could help each other. We're taking the next obvious step for multi-mission infrastructure: designing the capability for an interplanetary backbone network. You build what's needed for the next mission. As spacecraft get built and deployed, they carry the standard protocols that become part of the interplanetary backbone. Then, when they finish their primary scientific mission, they get repurposed as nodes in the backbone network. We accrete an interplanetary backbone over time. In 2004, the Mars rovers were supposed to transmit data back to Earth directly through the deep space network — three big 70-meter antennas in Australia, Spain and California. However, the channel's available data rate was 28 kilobits per second, which isn't much. When they turned the radios on, they overheated. They had to back off, which meant less data would come back. That made the scientists grumpy. One of the JPL engineers used prototype software — this is so cool! — to reprogram the rovers and orbiters from hundreds of millions of miles away. We built a small store-and-forward interplanetary internet with essentially three nodes: the rovers on the surface of Mars, the orbiters and the deep space network on Earth. That's been running ever since. We've been refining the design of those protocols, implementing and testing them. The latest protocols are running back-and-forth relays between Earth and the International Space Station... We did another test at the ISS where the astronauts were controlling a little robot vehicle in Germany. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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NASA's Probe Sampled Too Much From Asteroid Bennu and Now It's Leaking

science - Posted On:2020-10-25 18:44:59 Source: slashdot

Iwastheone shares some space news from OPB: A NASA spacecraft sent out to collect a sample of rock and dust from an asteroid has nabbed so much that it's created an unexpected problem. Rocks are jammed in the device in a way that's keeping a Mylar flap open, creating a gap that's letting some of the collected pebbles and dust drift out into space. "We had a successful sample collection attempt — almost too successful. Material is escaping," says Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, the principal investigator for the OSIRIS-REx mission. "We think we're losing a small fraction of material, but it's more than I'm comfortable with. I was pretty concerned when I saw these images coming in." To prevent any further loss, the team is now preparing to stow the sample collection device quickly into its return capsule, possibly starting the stowing process as soon as Tuesday. The capsule is expected to return to Earth in 2023... It's now looking like the collection device must have penetrated farther down into the asteroid's surface than expected — perhaps as deep as 48 centimeters, or about a foot and a half. Maybe that's because new findings from mission "suggest that the interior of the asteroid Bennu could be weaker and less dense than its outer layers — like a crme-filled chocolate egg flying though space..." according to an article earlier this month in the news digest of the University of Colorado Boulder: The results appear in a study published in the journal Science Advances and led by the University of Colorado Boulder's OSIRIS-REx team, including professors Daniel Scheeres and Jay McMahon... Using OSIRIS-REx's own navigational instruments and other tools, the group spent nearly two years mapping out the ebbs and flows of Bennu's gravity field. Think of it like taking an X-ray of a chunk of space debris with an average width about the height of the Empire State Building. "If you can measure the gravity field with enough precision, that places hard constraints on where the mass is located, even if you can't see it directly," said Andrew French, a coauthor of the new study and a former graduate student at CU Boulder, now at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. What the team has found may also spell trouble for Bennu. The asteroid's core appears to be weaker than its exterior, a fact that could put its survival at risk in the not-too-distant future. "You could imagine maybe in a million years or less the whole thing flying apart," said Scheeres, a distinguished professor in the Ann and H.J. Smead Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Researchers Discover Second 'Key' Used By Coronavirus To Enter Human Cells

science - Posted On:2020-10-24 17:44:59 Source: slashdot

Kiuas writes: Researchers from the Technical University of Munich and the University of Helsinki have discovered a second receptor (called neuropilin-1) which is used by the SARS-CoV-2 virus to enter into human cells via the nasal cavity. The discovery is important as it helps explain the rapid spread of the virus, and also helps define a potential target for antirviral intervention... The study itself was published in the Science magazine on the 20th of October. More details announced by the University of Helsinki: "That SARS-CoV-2 uses the receptor ACE2 to infect our cells was known, but viruses often use multiple factors to maximize their infectious potential" says Dr. Giuseppe Balistreri, head of the research group Viral Cell Biology at the University of Helsinki involved in the study. "Unlike the main receptor ACE2, which is present in low levels, Neuropilin-1 is very abundant in the cells of the nasal cavity. This is a strategically important localization possibly contributing to the efficient infectivity of this new coronavirus, which has caused a major pandemic, spreading rapidly around the world", Balistreri explains... By specifically blocking neuropilin-1 with antibodies, the researchers were able to significantly reduce infection in laboratory cell cultures. "If you think of ACE2 as a door lock to enter the cell, then neuropilin-1 could be a factor that directs the virus to the door. ACE2 is expressed at very low levels in most cells. Thus, it is not easy for the virus to find doors to enter. Other factors such as neuropilin-1 might help the virus finding its door", says Balistreri... Balistreri cautiously concludes "it is currently too early to speculate whether blocking directly neuropilin could be a viable therapeutic approach, as this could lead to side effects. This will have to be looked at in future studies. Currently our laboratory is testing the effect of new molecules that we have specifically designed to interrupt the connection between the virus and neuropilin. Preliminary results are very promising and we hope to obtain validations in vivo in the near future." Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Besides the “Big One,” closer faults could also shake Portland

Science - Posted On:2020-10-24 09:14:57 Source: arstechnica

Coastal denizens of the US Pacific Northwest are (or should be!) familiar with the significance of “the Big One”—a major earthquake just off the coast that will occur someday. The tectonic plate boundary, where oceanic crust slides downward beneath the North American continent, is capable of producing major shaking and an incredibly dangerous tsunami. This hasn’t happened in centuries, leading to a false sense of security, but the evidence is there for events deeper in the past.

But the plate boundary itself isn’t the only source of seismic danger. Near Portland, for example, there are a number of smaller active faults. There have even been moderate earthquakes in recent years to serve as reminders. In 1993, a magnitude 5.7 quake just 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of the city caused around $30 million in damage. Here, too, seismologists can look deeper into the past. And it shows that much bigger earthquakes are possible.

Today, we measure and quantify earthquakes with seismometers, but it’s possible to find physical evidence that testifies to past earthquakes. Paleoseismology relies on the fact that some things move during an earthquake, displacing their position. In the right situation, you can even see about how much the fault moved and put a date on each event. That allows for a rough estimate of earthquake magnitude, as well as the average time between major earthquakes. (Note that this does not mean we can predict the date of the next one. Earthquakes are not clockwork events.)

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Scientists Capture World's First 3,200-Megapixel Photos

science - Posted On:2020-10-24 06:14:57 Source: slashdot

Scientists at the Menlo Park, California-based SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have taken the world's first 3,200-megapixel digital photos, using an advanced imaging device that's built to explore the universe. CNET reports: "We will measure and catalog something like 20 billion galaxies." said Steven Kahn, director of the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile. That observatory is where the world's largest digital camera will become the centerpiece of a monumental effort to map the night sky. The camera will spend 10 years capturing the most detailed images of the universe ever taken. The team working on the camera just completed the focal plane, which is an array of imaging sensors more than two feet wide. (The equivalent focal length on an iPhone 11 camera is 26 millimeters.) It took the team about six months to assemble the sensors, largely because the sensors can easily crack if they touch each other during the installation process. Since the camera isn't complete, scientists used a pinhole projector to test the focal plane. They snapped photos of an image of Vera C. Rubin (the late scientist the observatory is named for), the camera team, and a head of romanesco broccoli. CNET posted a video describing how scientists designed and built the focal plane. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Einstein's Theory of Relativity, Critical For GPS, Seen In Distant Stars

science - Posted On:2020-10-24 03:14:57 Source: slashdot

Using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, astronomers have discovered that "gravitational redshift" exists in two stars orbiting each other in our galaxy about 29,000 light years (200,000 trillion miles) away from Earth. Gravitational redshifts, where light is shifted to redder colors because of gravity, "have tangible impacts on modern life, as scientists and engineers must take them into account to enable accurate positions for GPS," reports Phys.Org. From the report: The intriguing system known as 4U 1916-053 contains two stars in a remarkably close orbit. One is the core of a star that has had its outer layers stripped away, leaving a star that is much denser than the Sun. The other is a neutron star, an even denser object created when a massive star collapses in a supernova explosion. The neutron star (grey) is shown in this artist's impression at the center of a disk of hot gas pulled away from its companion (white star on left). These two compact stars are only about 215,000 miles apart, roughly the distance between the Earth and the Moon. While the Moon orbits our planet once a month, the dense companion star in 4U 1916-053 whips around the neutron star and completes a full orbit in only 50 minutes. In the new work on 4U 1916-053, the team analyzed X-ray spectra -- that is, the amounts of X-rays at different wavelengths -- from Chandra. They found the characteristic signature of the absorption of X-ray light by iron and silicon in the spectra. In three separate observations with Chandra, the data show a sharp drop in the detected amount of X-rays close to the wavelengths where the iron or silicon atoms are expected to absorb the X-rays. One of the spectra showing absorption by iron -- the dips on the left and right -- is included in the main graphic. An additional graphic shows a spectrum with absorption by silicon. In both spectra the data are shown in grey and a computer model in red. However, the wavelengths of these characteristic signatures of iron and silicon were shifted to longer, or redder wavelengths compared to the laboratory values found here on Earth (shown with the blue, vertical line for each absorption signature). The researchers found that the shift of the absorption features was the same in each of the three Chandra observations, and that it was too large to be explained by motion away from us. Instead they concluded it was caused by gravitational redshift. The article goes on to explain how gravitational redshifts connect with Einstein's General Theory Relativity: "As predicted by Einstein's theory, clocks under the force of gravity run at a slower rate than clocks viewed from a distant region experiencing weaker gravity. This means that clocks on Earth observed from orbiting satellites run at a slower rate. To have the high precision needed for GPS, this effect needs to be taken into account or there will be small differences in time that would add up quickly, calculating inaccurate positions..." The findings have been published in the Astrophysical Journal. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Huge COVID study finds remdesivir doesn’t work—FDA grants approval anyway

Science - Posted On:2020-10-23 15:59:59 Source: arstechnica

The US Food and Drug Administration on Thursday issued a full approval of the antiviral drug remdesivir for treating COVID-19—just days after a massive, global study concluded that the drug provides no benefit.

“The FDA is committed to expediting the development and availability of COVID-19 treatments during this unprecedented public health emergency,” FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said in a statement. “Today’s approval is supported by data from multiple clinical trials that the agency has rigorously assessed and represents an important scientific milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The FDA made its decision based on three clinical trials on remdesivir, a repurposed experimental antiviral drug brand-named Veklury. One was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial run by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. It included 1,062 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, 541 of which received remdesivir. The trial concluded that remdesivir shortened the median recovery time from the infection from 15 days to 10 days. The researchers running the trial defined “recovery” of a patient as either a patient being discharged from the hospital—regardless if the patient still had lingering symptoms that limited activities or required supplemental oxygen to be taken at home—or a patient remaining in the hospital but no longer requiring medical care, such as if they were kept in the hospital for infection-control reasons.

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FDA approves remdesivir for COVID-19—but global study finds it doesn’t work

Science - Posted On:2020-10-23 15:44:59 Source: arstechnica

The US Food and Drug Administration on Thursday issued a full approval of the antiviral drug remdesivir for treating COVID-19—just days after a massive, global study concluded that the drug provides no benefit.

“The FDA is committed to expediting the development and availability of COVID-19 treatments during this unprecedented public health emergency,” FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said in a statement. “Today’s approval is supported by data from multiple clinical trials that the agency has rigorously assessed and represents an important scientific milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The FDA made its decision based on three clinical trials on remdesivir, a repurposed experimental antiviral drug brand-named Veklury. One was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial run by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. It included 1,062 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, 541 of which received remdesivir. The trial concluded that remdesivir shortened the median recovery time from the infection from 15 days to 10 days. The researchers running the trial defined “recovery” of a patient as either a patient being discharged from the hospital—regardless if the patient still had lingering symptoms that limited activities or required supplemental oxygen to be taken at home—or a patient remaining in the hospital but no longer requiring medical care, such as if they were kept in the hospital for infection-control reasons.

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NASA To Announce New Science Results About Moon

science - Posted On:2020-10-23 14:59:59 Source: slashdot

NASA will announce an exciting new discovery about the Moon from the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) at a media teleconference at 12 p.m. EDT Monday, Oct. 26. Audio of the teleconference will stream live on the agency's website. From a press release: This new discovery contributes to NASA's efforts to learn about the Moon in support of deep space exploration. Under NASA's Artemis program, the agency will send the first woman and next man to the lunar surface in 2024 to prepare for our next giant leap -- human exploration of Mars as early as the 2030s. Understanding the science of the Moon also helps piece together the broader history of the inner solar system. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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A typical teenager’s stroll: Carrying a baby and dodging mammoths

Science - Posted On:2020-10-23 12:45:01 Source: arstechnica

What could make you walk miles across a landscape full of Ice Age predators, all alone except for the toddler you’re carrying? Archaeologists recently discovered a long trail of footprints left behind by someone brave enough—or desperate enough—to undertake the journey.

Sometime between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago, a rather small person, probably a young teen or a short adult woman, walked quickly across the Pleistocene landscape. Mammoths and a giant ground sloth crossed the tracks in the travelers’ wake, trampling some of the footprints. People at ancient White Sands usually moved in groups, which often included a mix of ages and genders, based on the other trackways at the site. But for some reason, this person set out alone—almost.

The person’s gait is uneven, as if they were carrying a load on their left hip. And three spots along the northbound trail reveal what that load must have been: a toddler, probably around three years old. The child’s small feet left their own tracks when their guardian set them down just long enough to rest or switch arms.

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Death of Sea Life Off Russia Peninsula 'Caused by Algae'

science - Posted On:2020-10-23 12:30:00 Source: slashdot

Blooming algae was behind a recent mass death of sea animals that saw octopuses and seals wash up on the shore off a Russian peninsula, scientists said on Friday in the final conclusion to their probe. From a report: Locals in Kamchatka, a volcanic peninsula in Russia's Far East, raised the alarm in September after the animals were found dead and surfers complained of stinging eyes. Scientists later said that up to 95 percent of marine life living along the seabed in the affected area had died. Environmental campaigners said they were conducting their own inquiries and were not yet able to confirm the official probe's findings. Andrei Adrianov, vice president of Russia's Academy of Sciences, announced the probe's conclusions on Friday, saying the mass death was due to the effects of toxins from single-cell algae. Speaking at the same meeting, Svetlana Radionova of environmental watchdog Rosprirodnadzor said her agency conducted over 5,000 tests. She said the agency did not see a way the situation could have been caused by humans. In a separate criminal probe, investigators announced they had eliminated oil spills and toxic waste as possible causes. They added that the previously reported high levels of phenol and petroleum products were "not critical" and had been observed in the bay for decades. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Rocket Report: Bank doubles value of SpaceX, Russia won’t talk Amur anymore

Science - Posted On:2020-10-23 07:14:56 Source: arstechnica

Welcome to Edition 3.21 of the Rocket Report. As of Friday morning, there are just 70 days left until January 1. This means that if your rocket company is planning a launch in 2020, you have just 10 weeks left. No pressure!

As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don't want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.

China reveals five-year plan for commercial space. The China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. outlined plans for developing launch services, satellite constellations, and a reusable spaceplane at the 6th China International Commercial Aerospace Forum, which opened on Monday in Wuhan, Hubei Province, SpaceNews reports. The group plans to double the number of launches of its Kuaizhou-series rockets (which deliver small satellites into orbit) by 2023 and lead the world in solid-rocket technology by 2025.

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