NASA Delays First Flight of New SLS Rocket Until 2019

science - Posted On:2017-04-28 03:14:57 Source: slashdot

schwit1 writes: Despite spending almost $19 billion and more than thirteen years of development, NASA today admitted that it will have to delay the first test flight of the SLS rocket from late 2018 to sometime in 2019. "We agree with the GAO that maintaining a November 2018 launch readiness date is not in the best interest of the program, and we are in the process of establishing a new target in 2019," wrote William Gerstenmaier, chief of NASA's human spaceflight program. "Caution should be used in referencing the report on the specific technical issues, but the overall conclusions are valid." The competition between the big government SLS/Orion program and private commercial space is downright embarrassing to the government. While SLS continues to be delayed, even after more than a decade of work and billions of wasted dollars, SpaceX is gearing up for the first flight of Falcon Heavy this year. And they will be doing it despite the fact that Congress took money from the commercial private space effort, delaying its progress, in order to throw more money at SLS/Orion. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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DNA-Based Test Can Spot Cancer Recurrence a Year Before Conventional Scans

science - Posted On:2017-04-27 21:29:58 Source: slashdot

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: A revolutionary blood test has been shown to diagnose the recurrence of cancer up to a year in advance of conventional scans in a major lung cancer trial. The test, known as a liquid biopsy, could buy crucial time for doctors by indicating that cancer is growing in the body when tumors are not yet detectable on CT scans and long before the patient becomes aware of physical symptoms. It works by detecting free-floating mutated DNA, released into the bloodstream by dying cancer cells. In the trial of 100 lung cancer patients, scientists saw precipitous rises in tumor DNA in the blood of patients who would go on to relapse months, or even a year, later. In the latest trial, reported in the journal Nature, 100 patients with non-small cell lung cancer were followed from diagnosis through surgery and chemotherapy, having blood tests every six to eight weeks. By analyzing the patchwork of genetic faults in cells across each tumor, scientists created personalized genomic templates for each patient. This was then compared to the DNA floating in their blood, to assess whether a fraction of it matched that seen in their tumor. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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New analysis relocates the “hobbit” on the human family tree

Scientific Method - Posted On:2017-04-27 16:15:00 Source: arstechnica

The story of how modern humans got to be where we are is constantly changing as new evidence is found. This often forces us to confront the idea that we aren’t as unique as we thought, as we find evidence of behaviors like tool use further and further back in our family tree. New evidence hints that our ancestors may have left Africa—and gone farther from it—than we had thought previously.

A paper currently in press at the Journal of Human Evolution takes a look at how Homo floresiensis, the diminutive “hobbit” species, fits into this picture. Its findings suggest that the hobbit lies further down on the family tree than previously thought, something that would only be possible if our ancestors had migrated out of Africa much earlier than any other data suggested.

Our genus Homo may seem to have been pretty determined to get out of Africa. But Homo is a diverse group, a similar level of grouping to the one that places dogs, wolves, foxes, and jackals together in Canis. Across the genus, the migratory history is mixed. Our own species obviously left, probably in more than one wave of migration. But going much further back in time, our cousins Homo erectus, who lived between 2 million years and approximately 70,000 years ago, also left Africa and spread throughout Asia. Other members of our genus appear to have remained on their native continent.

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US Space Firms Tell Washington: China Will Take Over the Moon if You're Not Careful

science - Posted On:2017-04-27 15:29:59 Source: slashdot

The US space industry is prodding the US government into refreshing its outdated laws on commercial activity beyond earth: scare it with talk of Chinese galactic domination. A report adds: At a Senate hearing on the space industry this week, companies that build rockets and space habitats and manufacture electronic goods in space spoke about a standard laundry list of complaints, from regulatory burdens to fears of subsidized competitors. But their message was wrapped in patriotic concerns about China's growing capacity for space action. These companies are eager for the US government to allow and invest in commercial activities in orbit and around the moon. Many think the laws governing action in space, and particularly the UN Space Treaty, need refreshing for an age when private companies are close to matching the space capacity of sovereign nations. The last major change was a law on asteroid mining passed in 2015. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Senior official: NASA will delay first flight of new SLS rocket until 2019

Scientific Method - Posted On:2017-04-27 14:45:00 Source: arstechnica

NASA has decided it must delay the maiden flight of its Space Launch System rocket, presently scheduled for November 2018, until at least early 2019. This decision was widely expected due to several problems with the rocket, Orion spacecraft, and ground launch systems. The delay was confirmed in a letter from a NASA official released Thursday by the US Government Accountability Office.

"We agree with the GAO that maintaining a November 2018 launch readiness date is not in the best interest of the program, and we are in the process of establishing a new target in 2019," wrote William Gerstenmaier, chief of NASA's human spaceflight program. "Caution should be used in referencing the report on the specific technical issues, but the overall conclusions are valid."

The GAO report referenced by Gerstenmaier, NASA Human Space Exploration: Delay Likely for First Exploration Mission, reveals a litany of technical concerns, such as cracking problems in the core stage of the Space Launch System rocket, that have significantly reduced the "margin" in schedule available to accommodate development delays.

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Most groundwater is ancient but contains surprising human fingerprint

Scientific Method - Posted On:2017-04-27 12:15:01 Source: arstechnica

Water is typically considered a renewable resource, as the global cycle of evaporation and precipitation constant redistributes it. But not all sources of fresh drinking water work that way. Some accumulate at modest rates, which can easily be surpassed by extraction for people and crops. In the case of groundwater aquifers, this extraction is sometimes referred to as “mining,” since water that fell as rain long ago can be quickly depleted by wells.

A new study led by the University of Calgary’s Scott Jasechko estimates how much of the Earth’s accessible groundwater is “fossil” water that has been down there for 12,000 years or more, predating the current interglacial climate period. Along the way, the researchers discovered a surprise—that “fossil” water may not be as untouched by human pollution as we thought.

Old water can be bound in dry areas with very low aquifer-refilling rates, or it can reside deeper in wetter regions, often below relatively impermeable rock layers that separate aquifers. Although water that has spent so long in contact with bedrock sometimes picks up problematic geological contaminants, these deeper waters typically enjoy the advantage of being isolated from human activities. Shallow aquifers can contain pesticides, for example, or industrial contaminants.

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New, deadlier trend in the raging opioid epidemic: Elephant tranquillizer

Scientific Method - Posted On:2017-04-27 12:00:00 Source: arstechnica

Law enforcement agencies across the country are raising alarms about the increasing trend of finding heroin laced with an extremely lethal elephant tranquilizer called carfentanil, The Washington Post reports.

The drug is 10,000 times stronger than morphine and 100 times stronger than fentanyl, just two milligrams of which is lethal—that’s about one toss of a salt shaker. Carfentanil can be absorbed through the skin, and just a puff from re-sealing a plastic bag can be lethal, raising risks for first-responders. Just a whiff can kill a drug-sniffing dog.

Though authorities are struggling to identify it in overdose cases—and sometimes not trying due to the health risks—carfentanil has been linked to dramatic increases in overdoses, which were already at alarming levels amid the nationwide opioid epidemic.

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New, deadlier trend in the raging opioid epidemic: Elephant tranquilizer

Scientific Method - Posted On:2017-04-27 11:45:01 Source: arstechnica

Law enforcement agencies across the country are raising alarms about the increasing trend of finding heroin laced with an extremely lethal elephant tranquilizer called carfentanil, The Washington Post reports.

The drug is 10,000 times stronger than morphine and 100 times stronger than fentanyl, just two milligrams of which is lethal—that’s about one toss of a salt shaker. Carfentanil can be absorbed through the skin, and just a puff from re-sealing a plastic bag can be lethal, raising risks for first-responders. Just a whiff can kill a drug-sniffing dog.

Though authorities are struggling to identify it in overdose cases—and sometimes not trying due to the health risks—carfentanil has been linked to dramatic increases in overdoses, which were already at alarming levels amid the nationwide opioid epidemic.

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Cassini flies where no spacecraft has gone before—within 3,000km of Saturn

Scientific Method - Posted On:2017-04-27 08:59:57 Source: arstechnica

After the Cassini spacecraft plunged between Saturn and its inner-most rings on Wednesday, mission scientists waited anxiously Wednesday night for a message from the robotic probe that it had survived. Finally, at 2:56am ET on Thursday, Cassini made contact via NASA's Deep Space Network Goldstone Complex in California's Mojave Desert and sent back some preliminary data and images.

It had come through its initial close encounter with Saturn unscathed, flying to within 3,000km of the gas giant's cloud tops, where the air pressure is comparable to that on the surface of Earth. The probe also "grazed" the innermost, visible edge of Saturn's ring system by flying within about 300km. No spacecraft had flown so close to Saturn or these rings, so scientists weren't sure it would survive.

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LinkedIn Testing 1970's-Style No-CS-Degree-Required Software Apprenticeships

science - Posted On:2017-04-27 07:14:56 Source: slashdot

theodp writes: The Mercury News reports on REACH, a new software apprenticeship program that LinkedIn's engineering team started piloting this month, which offers people without Computer Science degrees an opportunity to get a foot in the door, as Microsoft-owned LinkedIn searches for ways to help diversify its workforce. For now, the 29 REACH participants are paid, but are only short-term LinkedIn employees (for the duration of the 6-month program). LinkedIn indicated it hopes to learn if tech internships could eventually be made part of the regular hiring process, perhaps unaware that no-CS-degree-required hiring for entry-level permanent positions in software development was standard practice in the 70's and 80's, back when women made up almost 40% of those working as programmers and in software-related fields, nearly double the percentage of women in LinkedIn's global 2016 tech workforce. Hey, even in tech hiring, everything old is new again! Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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NASA Inspector Says Agency Wasted $80 Million On An Inferior Spacesuit

science - Posted On:2017-04-27 05:14:57 Source: slashdot

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: When NASA began developing a rocket and spacecraft to return humans to the Moon a decade ago as part of the Constellation Program, the space agency started to think about the kinds of spacesuits astronauts would need in deep space and on the lunar surface. After this consideration, NASA awarded a $148 million contract to Oceaneering International, Inc. in 2009 to develop and produce such a spacesuit. However, President Obama canceled the Constellation program just a year later, in early 2010. Later that year, senior officials at the Johnson Space Center recommended canceling the Constellation spacesuit contract because the agency had its own engineers working on a new spacesuit and, well, NASA no longer had a clear need for deep-space spacesuits. However, the Houston officials were overruled by agency leaders at NASA's headquarters in Washington, DC. A new report released Wednesday by NASA Inspector General Paul Martin sharply criticizes this decision. "The continuation of this contract did not serve the best interests of the agency's spacesuit technology development efforts," the report states. In fact, the report found that NASA essentially squandered $80.6 million on the Oceaneering contract before it was finally ended last year. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Chinese, European Space Agencies In Talks To Build a Moon Base

science - Posted On:2017-04-27 03:14:57 Source: slashdot

ESA's Pal Hvistendahl has confirmed via Bloomberg that Chinese and European space agencies are talking with one another about plans to build a base on the moon. The discussions "involve working together to build a human-occupied 'moon village' from which both agencies can potentially launch Mars missions, conduct research, and possibly explore commercial mining and tourism projects," reports TechCrunch. From the report: China's upcoming projects in space include a mission to collect samples from the moon via an uncrewed craft by the end of this year, and to also launch an exploratory mission to the far side of the moon next year, with the similar aim of returning samples for study. The ESA's collaboration with China thus far include participating in the study of those returned samples, and potentially sending a European astronaut to the Chinese space station (which is currently unoccupied) at some future date. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Popular Belief That Saturated Fat Clogs Up Arteries Is a Myth, Experts Say

science - Posted On:2017-04-26 23:44:58 Source: slashdot

schwit1 quotes a report from Irish Independent: The authors, led by Dr Aseem Malhotra, from Lister Hospital, Stevenage, wrote: "Despite popular belief among doctors and the public, the conceptual model of dietary saturated fat clogging a pipe is just plain wrong." Dr Malhotra and colleagues Professor Rita Redberg, from the University of California at San Francisco, and Pascal Meier from University Hospital Geneva in Switzerland and University College London, cited a "landmark" review of evidence that appeared to exonerate saturated fat. They said relative levels of "good" cholesterol, or high density lipoprotein (HDL), were a better predictor of heart disease risk than levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as "bad" cholesterol. High consumption of foods rich in saturated fat such as butter, cakes and fatty meat has been shown to increase blood levels of LDL. The experts wrote: "It is time to shift the public health message in the prevention and treatment of coronary artery disease away from measuring serum lipids (blood fats) and reducing dietary saturated fat. "Coronary artery disease is a chronic inflammatory disease and it can be reduced effectively by walking 22 minutes a day and eating real food." They pointed out that in clinical trials widening narrow arteries with stents -- stainless steel mesh devices -- failed to reduce the risk of heart attacks. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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New Study Suggests Humans Lived In North America 130,000 Years Ago

science - Posted On:2017-04-26 21:29:59 Source: slashdot

An anonymous reader writes: In 1992, archaeologists working a highway construction site in San Diego County found the partial skeleton of a mastodon, an elephant-like animal now extinct. Mastodon skeletons aren't so unusual, but there was other strange stuff with it. "The remains were in association with a number of sharply broken rocks and broken bones," says Tom Demere, a paleontologist at the San Diego Natural History Museum. He says the rocks showed clear marks of having been used as hammers and an anvil. And some of the mastodon bones as well as a tooth showed fractures characteristic of being whacked, apparently with those stones. It looked like the work of humans. Yet there were no cut marks on the bones showing that the animal was butchered for meat. Demere thinks these people were after something else. "The suggestion is that this site is strictly for breaking bone," Demere says, "to produce blank material, raw material to make bone tools or to extract marrow." Marrow is a rich source of fatty calories. The scientists knew they'd uncovered something rare. But they didn't realize just how rare for years, until they got a reliable date on how old the bones were by using a uranium-thorium dating technology that didn't exist in the 1990s. The bones were 130,000 years old. That's a jaw-dropping date, as other evidence shows that the earliest humans got to the Americas about 15,000 to 20,000 years ago. The study has been published in the journal Nature. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Experts: Headline-grabbing editorial on saturated fats “bizarre,” “misleading”

Scientific Method - Posted On:2017-04-26 17:59:59 Source: arstechnica

Controversial UK cardiologist Aseem Malhotra has once again published an editorial disputing decades of research linking diets high in saturated fats with heart disease—much to the annoyance of health experts and researchers.

The report was written secretly and released by the National Obesity Forum, for which Malhotra was also a senior advisor. The Forum is funded by the meat industry and drug companies.

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NASA inspector says agency wasted $80 million on an inferior spacesuit

Scientific Method - Posted On:2017-04-26 17:59:59 Source: arstechnica

When NASA began developing a rocket and spacecraft to return humans to the Moon a decade ago as part of the Constellation Program, the space agency started to think about the kinds of spacesuits astronauts would need in deep space and on the lunar surface. After this consideration, NASA awarded a $148 million contract to Oceaneering International, Inc. in 2009 to develop and produce such a spacesuit.

However, President Obama canceled the Constellation program just a year later, in early 2010. Later that year, senior officials at the Johnson Space Center recommended canceling the Constellation spacesuit contract because the agency had its own engineers working on a new spacesuit and, well, NASA no longer had a clear need for deep-space spacesuits. However, the Houston officials were overruled by agency leaders at NASA's headquarters in Washington, DC.

A new report released Wednesday by NASA Inspector General Paul Martin sharply criticizes this decision. "The continuation of this contract did not serve the best interests of the agency’s spacesuit technology development efforts," the report states. In fact, the report found that NASA essentially squandered $80.6 million on the Oceaneering contract before it was finally ended last year.

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Climate change is turning dehydration into a deadly disease

Scientific Method - Posted On:2017-04-26 15:15:00 Source: arstechnica

A mysterious kidney disease is striking down labourers across the world and climate change is making it worse. For Mosaic, Jane Palmer meets the doctors who are trying to understand it and stop it. The story is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

By 10am in the sugarcane fields outside the town of Tierra Blanca in El Salvador, the mercury is already pushing 31°C. The workers arrived at dawn: men and women, young and old, wearing thick jeans, long-sleeved shirts and face scarves to prevent being scorched by the sun’s rays. They are moving quickly between rows of cane, bending, reaching, clipping and trimming in preparation for harvesting the crop in the weeks to come. In the scant shade, old Pepsi and Fanta bottles full of water swing from tree branches, untouched. Gulping only the thick air, the workers won’t stop until noon, when their shift is over.

Among them is 25-year-old Jesús Linares. His dream, he explains in English, was to be a language teacher, but like many Salvadoran children he went to work to help support his parents and siblings. Aged eight, he learned to hide in the towering canes whenever the police sought out underage workers; since then, he’s tended sugarcane from dawn to noon and then pigs until dusk. In the evenings, he tries to listen to English audio programmes or read a language book, but for the last year he’s been too tired to concentrate. So tired, in fact, that a few months ago he visited the Tierra Blanca clinic. Blood tests revealed that Linares was in the early stages of chronic kidney disease.

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Incredible discovery places humans in California 130,000 years ago

Scientific Method - Posted On:2017-04-26 14:30:00 Source: arstechnica

In 1992, a group of archaeologists found something extraordinary buried below a sound berm next to the San Diego freeway in Southern California. They had been called in during a freeway renovation to do some excavation because the fossil-laced earth of the California coast often yields scientific treasures. After digging about three meters below the construction area, Center for American Paleolithic Research archaeologist Steve Holen was deep into a pristine layer of soil that hadn't been disturbed for millennia. There, he found what appeared to be an abandoned campsite, where humans had left stone tools and hammered mastodon bones behind. This wasn't too unusual; it's fairly well-established that humans were hunting mastodons in the Americas as early as 15,000 years ago.

But when Holen's colleagues used several techniques to discover the age of the bones, the numbers sounded crazy. Test after test showed that the bones had been buried more than 100,000 years ago. The result flew in the face of everything we think we know about the spread of humanity across the globe. It took 24 years before Holen and his fellow researchers were certain enough to publish their findings in Nature. Now, based on a reliable dating method using Uranium decay rates and years of repeated tests, the researchers say that an unknown type of early human lived in California roughly 130,000 years ago. If true, it completely changes the story of how humans reached the Americas.

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Unknown humans were in California 130,000 years ago, say scientists

Scientific Method - Posted On:2017-04-26 14:15:00 Source: arstechnica

In 1992, a group of archaeologists found something extraordinary buried below a sound berm next to the San Diego freeway in Southern California. They had been called in during a freeway renovation to do some excavation because the fossil-laced earth of the California coast often yields scientific treasures. After digging about three meters below the construction area, Center for American Paleolithic Research archaeologist Steve Holen was deep into a pristine layer of soil that hadn't been disturbed for millennia. There, he found what appeared to be an abandoned campsite, where humans had left stone tools and hammered mastodon bones behind. This wasn't too unusual; it's fairly well-established that humans were hunting mastodons in the Americas as early as 15,000 years ago.

But when Holen's colleagues used several techniques to discover the age of the bones, the numbers sounded crazy. Test after test showed that the bones had been buried over 100,000 years ago. The result flew in the face of everything we think we know about the spread of humanity across the globe. It took 24 years before Holen and his fellow researchers were certain enough to publish their findings in Nature. Now, based on a reliable dating method using Uranium decay rates and years of repeated tests, the researchers say that an unknown type of early human lived in California roughly 130,000 years ago. If true, it completely changes the story of how humans reached the Americas.

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Mission Control is a wonderful movie. Go see it now

Scientific Method - Posted On:2017-04-26 09:14:56 Source: arstechnica

We'll make this flim review simple and straightforward: Mission Control is a wonderful movie. Go see it.

This new movie is both timely and overdue. It is timely in that we're nearing the 50th anniversary of the Apollo program's glory days, and it's overdue in the sense that mission control is finally getting some of the limelight it deserves. A few years ago a book titled Go Flight! brought the life and times of NASA's mission control during the Apollo and early space shuttle eras alive. These flight directors and controllers worked inside the “Cathedral,” the third floor of Building 30 on Johnson Space Center’s sprawling campus. They were always watching, running the missions, and ready to make split-second decisions.

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