President Trump makes news at Space Council meeting by going off script

Science - Posted On:2018-06-18 17:15:00 Source: arstechnica

For its third meeting, the National Space Council chose the White House as its venue. This allowed President Trump to stop by the meeting to sign a policy document on space-traffic management and also share a few thoughts. This event was supposed to focus on the relatively sedate topic of space debris, but the freewheeling president had other ideas.

Among his remarks, Trump declared that he was pressing ahead with the creation of a Space Force to become the sixth branch of the US military. Additionally, he mused about the high cost of rockets built by Boeing and Lockheed Martin and suggested they should not work together "because the pricing only goes up."

Addressing the space council, with its titular head Vice President Mike Pence standing at his side, Trump said he was directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a Space Force as a distinct entity outside of the Air Force.

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New study adds evidence to debate over the only known Clovis burial

Science - Posted On:2018-06-18 15:30:00 Source: arstechnica

At sites scattered across western North America, long, fluted stone projectile points mark the presence of ancient people from a culture archaeologists now call Clovis. For much of the 20th century, the Clovis people were considered the very first Americans. But more recent data has shown that people arrived in North America several thousand years before the oldest known Clovis projectile points were made. But Clovis appears to be the first widespread culture, and it still represents a key chapter in the story of how people spread across two continents.

Beyond the things they left behind, there’s little trace of the Clovis people themselves. In fact, a lone infant skeleton may be the only known representative of the Clovis culture. Due to some discrepancies in radiocarbon dating, however, archaeologists still aren't sure whether the child's remains are Clovis. Now, a new study adds some evidence to that debate.

In 1968, construction workers near Anzick, Montana, unearthed the partial skeleton of an infant boy: fragments of his skull, his left collarbone, and a few ribs. At first glance, the boy now known as Anzick-1 seems to be the only member of the Clovis culture found so far. His skeleton was found with Clovis-style artifacts—more than 100 stone and bone objects, all dusted with red ochre. But radiocarbon dating of his remains didn't line up with dates from a pair of antler artifacts from the Clovis materials, raising questions as to how they ended up at Anzick together.

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Skeleton of infant boy helps pinpoint timing of Clovis culture

Science - Posted On:2018-06-18 15:15:00 Source: arstechnica

At sites scattered across western North America, long, fluted stone projectile points mark the presence of ancient people from a culture archaeologists now call Clovis. For much of the 20th century, the Clovis people were considered the very first Americans. But more recent data has shown that people arrived in North America several thousand years before the oldest known Clovis projectile points were made. But Clovis appears to be the first widespread culture, and it still represents a key chapter in the story of how people spread across two continents.

Beyond the things they left behind, there’s little trace of the Clovis people themselves. In fact, a lone infant skeleton may be the only known representative of the Clovis culture. Due to some discrepancies in radiocarbon dating, however, archaeologists still aren't sure whether the child's remains are Clovis. Now, a new study adds some evidence to that debate.

In 1968, construction workers near Anzick, Montana, unearthed the partial skeleton of an infant boy: fragments of his skull, his left collarbone, and a few ribs. At first glance, the boy now known as Anzick-1 seems to be the only member of the Clovis culture found so far. His skeleton was found with Clovis-style artifacts—more than 100 stone and bone objects, all dusted with red ochre. But radiocarbon dating of his remains didn't line up with dates from a pair of antler artifacts from the Clovis materials, raising questions as to how they ended up at Anzick together.

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US Eyes Robot Moon Missions as it Prepares For Astronauts' Return

science - Posted On:2018-06-18 12:45:00 Source: slashdot

The United States wants to send robotic explorers to the moon as soon as next year as a preparatory step toward sending astronauts back there for the first time since 1972, a NASA official said on Monday. From a report: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is planning a series of lunar missions beginning next year aimed at developing the capacity for a return to the moon, said Cheryl Warner, a spokeswoman for NASA's Human Exploration Directorate. NASA will work with private companies, which have not yet been chosen, on the missions, Warner said in a phone interview. U.S. President Donald Trump in December signed a directive that he said would enable astronauts to return to the moon and eventually lead a mission to Mars. Last month he ordered the government to review regulations on commercial space flights. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Attention knitters: Researchers harvest uranium from the sea with a yarn “net”

Science - Posted On:2018-06-18 11:15:01 Source: arstechnica

Take some regular old acrylic knitting yarn, modify it with a special kind of adsorbent chemical, and wave it around in the ocean. After some time, the yarn will pick up enough molecules of uranium that grams of yellowcake, the precursor to fuel used in nuclear reactors, can be made.

Of course, that description is a little reductive. The tricky part is the second step: finding an affordable adsorbent material that will attract uranium in a marine environment and then relinquish it so that it can be processed into nuclear fuel. Researchers from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Washington state say they've done that, and they suspect that their method might be approaching an economically viable point.

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As mega-constellations loom, US seeks to manage space debris problem

Science - Posted On:2018-06-18 10:29:56 Source: arstechnica

Space is getting ever more crowded. The US Strategic Command’s Space Surveillance Network tracks more than 19,000 objects in orbit around the Earth, and there are estimated to be hundreds of thousands of more objects 1cm or larger in space near the planet. Because they are traveling at tens of thousands of km per hour relative to Earth, even small objects pose a significant danger.

The National Space Council thinks we could do a better job of tracking and mitigating this debris. On Monday morning, the executive secretary of the space council, Scott Pace, outlined some of the space traffic management changes in a call with a handful of space reporters. “This is a new national policy to address the challenges of a congested space environment,” he said. “Unfettered access to space is a vital US interest.”

President Trump is expected to sign this Space Policy Directive-3 later on Monday. The policy directs the US Department of Defense to modernize its approach to tracking space debris and to increasingly rely on commercial debris-detection services to enhance the country’s “space situational awareness.” The Department of Commerce will provide a basic level of space situational awareness for public and private use, based upon the DOD catalog.

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As mega-constellations loom, US seek to manage space debris problem

Science - Posted On:2018-06-18 10:14:57 Source: arstechnica

Space is getting ever more crowded. The US Strategic Command’s Space Surveillance Network tracks more than 19,000 objects in orbit around the Earth, and there are estimated to be hundreds of thousands of more objects 1cm or larger in space near the planet. Because they are traveling at tens of thousands of km per hour relative to Earth, even small objects pose a significant danger.

The National Space Council thinks we could do a better job of tracking and mitigating this debris. On Monday morning, the executive secretary of the space council, Scott Pace, outlined some of the space traffic management changes in a call with a handful of space reporters. “This is a new national policy to address the challenges of a congested space environment,” he said. “Unfettered access to space is a vital US interest.”

President Trump is expected to sign this Space Policy Directive-3 later on Monday. The policy directs the US Department of Defense to modernize its approach to tracking space debris and to increasingly rely on commercial debris-detection services to enhance the country’s “space situational awareness.” The Department of Commerce will provide a basic level of space situational awareness for public and private use, based upon the DOD catalog.

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As space gets more crowded, US seeks to ensure a safe environment

Science - Posted On:2018-06-18 09:59:57 Source: arstechnica

Space is getting ever more crowded. The US Strategic Command’s Space Surveillance Network tracks more than 19,000 objects in orbit around the Earth, and there are estimated to be hundreds of thousands of more objects 1cm or larger in space near the planet. Because they are traveling at tens of thousands of km per hour relative to Earth, even small objects pose a significant danger.

The National Space Council thinks we could do a better job of tracking and mitigating this debris. On Monday morning, the executive secretary of the space council, Scott Pace, outlined some of the space traffic management changes in a call with a handful of space reporters. “This is a new national policy to address the challenges of a congested space environment,” he said. “Unfettered access to space is a vital US interest.”

President Trump is expected to sign this Space Policy Directive-3 later on Monday. The policy directs the US Department of Defense to modernize its approach to tracking space debris and to increasingly rely on commercial debris-detection services to enhance the country’s “space situational awareness.” The Department of Commerce will provide a basic level of space situational awareness for public and private use, based upon the DOD catalog.

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Man Reports PillCam Stuck In His Gut For Over 12 Weeks

science - Posted On:2018-06-17 23:44:58 Source: slashdot

A Portland man appears to have a pill-sized camera stuck in his gut. That man is me... Let me explain. For the average Joe, the following statement might sound a bit peculiar: I have swallowed a pill-sized camera a number of times. You see, I have Crohn's Disease (CD) in the small intestine -- a 20 foot-long portion of the gastrointestinal tract that runs between the stomach and the large intestine (colon). A "PillCam" is the most non-invasive, detailed method to survey this area as it doesn't require a scope up the rectum or down the esophagus, nor does it require any tissue slicing. It's also one of the safest procedures available -- the retention rate is as low as 1%. Unfortunately, this most recent capsule endoscopy resulted in my admission to the 1% club. On March 27th, 2018, I swallowed the PillCam that is currently lodged in my small intestine. If you do the math, that's more than 82 days ago (over 12 weeks). After hiking Smith Rock and summiting Black Butte a couple weeks later, I thought for sure the pill would have exited. It didn't, as evident by the follow-up X-ray. It can be difficult to find research on such a what-if scenario that happens to so few, but I did manage to find a Motherboard article telling the story of Scott Willis, a CD patient that had a PillCam lodged in his gut for eight weeks. One of the key differences between him and me is that he had a partial block and endured more symptoms, prompting him to schedule a procedure to get it out quicker. I'm relatively symptom free. We have tried upping the dose of corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and help the pill pass through the strictured areas, but that didn't seem to work. Most recently, I had two double-balloon enteroscopy procedures done within a week apart. They were able to locate the PillCam during the second procedure, but weren't able to retrieve it without risking the scope itself becoming stuck. The next step is to try again via the esophagus. The potential issue/complication here is the location. As my doctors warned, the PillCam is stuck 15 feet down and the scope is only 20 feet in length. There's little wiggle room if the pill is slightly further down the GI tract than estimated. I am sharing this story with the Slashdot community for two reasons. First, those entrenched in the world of cyborgs and/or modern-day medical procedures may find this experience particularly interesting. Second, the more people who know about the procedures and complications of Crohn's Disease the better. For those interested, I'll update this post after the next procedure. Have you or someone you know experienced a capsule endoscopy? Please share what you feel comfortable with. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Studies Find Evidence That Meditation Is Demotivating

science - Posted On:2018-06-17 13:30:00 Source: slashdot

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report written by behavioral scientists Kathleen D. Vohs and Andrew C. Hafenbrack: The practical payoff of mindfulness [meditation] is backed by dozens of studies linking it to job satisfaction, rational thinking and emotional resilience. But on the face of it, mindfulness might seem counterproductive in a workplace setting. To test this hunch, we recently conducted five studies, involving hundreds of people, to see whether there was a tension between mindfulness and motivation. As we report in a forthcoming article in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, we found strong evidence that meditation is demotivating. Some of the participants in our studies were trained in a few of the most common mindfulness meditation techniques. They were instructed by a professional meditation coach to focus on their breathing or mentally scan their bodies for physical sensations, being gently reminded throughout that there was no right or wrong way to do the exercise. Other participants were led through a different exercise. Some were encouraged to let their thoughts wander; some were instructed to read the news or write about recent activities they had done. Then we gave everyone a task to do. Among those who had meditated, motivation levels were lower on average. Those people didn't feel as much like working on the assignments, nor did they want to spend as much time or effort to complete them. Meditation was correlated with reduced thoughts about the future and greater feelings of calm and serenity -- states seemingly not conducive to wanting to tackle a work project. The studies also found that meditation "neither benefited nor detracted from a participant's quality of work." Furthermore, Vohs and Hafenbrack found that a financial bonus for outstanding performance did not overcome the demotivating effect of mindfulness. "While the promise of material rewards will always be a useful tool for motivating employees, it is no substitute for internal motivation," the report reads. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Machine Figures Out Rubik's Cube Without Human Assistance

science - Posted On:2018-06-17 10:14:56 Source: slashdot

An anonymous reader quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: [Stephen McAleer and colleagues from the University of California, Irvine] have pioneered a new kind of deep-learning technique, called "autodidactic iteration," that can teach itself to solve a Rubik's Cube with no human assistance. The trick that McAleer and co have mastered is to find a way for the machine to create its own system of rewards. Here's how it works. Given an unsolved cube, the machine must decide whether a specific move is an improvement on the existing configuration. To do this, it must be able to evaluate the move. Autodidactic iteration does this by starting with the finished cube and working backwards to find a configuration that is similar to the proposed move. This process is not perfect, but deep learning helps the system figure out which moves are generally better than others. Having been trained, the network then uses a standard search tree to hunt for suggested moves for each configuration. The result is an algorithm that performs remarkably well. "Our algorithm is able to solve 100% of randomly scrambled cubes while achieving a median solve length of 30 moves -- less than or equal to solvers that employ human domain knowledge," say McAleer and co. That's interesting because it has implications for a variety of other tasks that deep learning has struggled with, including puzzles like Sokoban, games like Montezuma's Revenge, and problems like prime number factorization. The paper on the algorithm -- called DeepCube -- is available on Arxiv. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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NASA's Most Experienced Astronaut Retires, Spent 665 Days In Space

science - Posted On:2018-06-17 07:44:57 Source: slashdot

An anonymous reader quotes UPI: After nearly four decades with NASA, including 22 years as an astronaut, Peggy Whitson is leaving the space agency. Her retirement is effective Friday, NASA announced... Whitson ends her career with multiple records to her name, including most time spent in space by a U.S. astronaut -- 665 days... The 57-year-old Whitson was a scientist before she was an astronaut, earning graduate degrees in biochemistry from Rice University in Houston before coming to conduct research at NASA's Johnson Space Center in 1989. The NASA scientist began training as an astronaut in 1996. She made her first trip to the International Space Station in 2008. During her time in space, including three long-duration stints aboard International Space Station, she helped carry out 21 science investigation and became the agency's first space station science officer... Whitson took a second turn as commander during Expedition 51, part of her most recent -- and last -- stay on the space station, which spanned from November 2016 to September 2017. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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We're All Getting Dumber, Says Science

science - Posted On:2018-06-16 03:14:57 Source: slashdot

dryriver shares a report from Fast Company: Researchers at Norway's Ragnar Frisch Center for Economic Research now have scientific proof of something we've long suspected -- we're all getting dumber. In their paper, "Flynn effect and its reversal are both environmentally caused," which was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Bernt Bratsberg and Ole Rogeberg report that IQ scores have been steadily dropping since the 1970s. The study consisted of analyzing 730,000 IQ test results gleaned from young men entering Norway's compulsory military service from 1970 to 2009. They found that scores declined by an average of seven points per generation, a reversal of the so-called "Flynn effect" where IQ was seen to be rising during the first part of the 20th century. The decline may be due to environmental factors, but because the researchers couldn't find consistent trends among families, Bratsberg and Rogeberg discounted factors like parental education, family size, increased immigration, and genetics as significant causes. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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$950 Million Large Hadron Collider Upgrade 'Could Upend Particle Physics'

science - Posted On:2018-06-15 23:44:58 Source: slashdot

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: A massive project to supercharge the world's largest particle collider launched on Friday in the hope that the beefed-up machine will reveal fresh insights into the nature of the universe. The approximately $950 million Swiss franc mission will see heavy equipment, new buildings, access shafts and service tunnels installed, constructed and excavated at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at Cern, the particle physics laboratory on the edge of Geneva. The upgrade will make the collider far more sensitive to subtle quirks in the laws of physics, and physicists hope these anomalies will pry open the door to entirely new theories of the universe. If the upgrade goes to plan, the proton beams in the souped-up accelerator, known as the high-luminosity LHC, or HL-LHC, will be so intense that the number of collisions in the machine will be five to 10 times greater than today. The upgrade is expected to take eight years. While new magnets and beam instruments will be installed when the LHC is switched off for two years in 2019, most of the required equipment will be fitted in a longer shutdown from 2024 to 2026, when the revamped machine will switch back on again. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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The Most Important Study of the Mediterranean Diet Has Been Retracted

science - Posted On:2018-06-15 21:29:59 Source: slashdot

Zorro shares a report from Quartz: In 2013, the New England Journal of Medicine published a landmark study that found that people put on a Mediterranean diet had a 30% lower chance of heart attack, stroke, or death from cardiovascular disease than people on a low-fat diet. It received massive media and public attention when released, and since has been cited by 3,268 other scientific papers. The study had tremendous impact on the field of nutrition and health science. Yesterday (June 13), however, the journal retracted the study -- providing a new reason for skepticism about how effective the now-popular Mediterranean diet really is. The reasons for the withdrawal are complicated, having to do with the methodology of the study. As Alison McCook of the Retraction Watch blog writes for NPR, this retraction is the result of the work of John Carlisle, a British anesthesiologist and self-taught statistician. Carlisle has spent recent years analyzing over 5,000 published randomized controlled trials (the gold standard of medical science research) to see how likely they were to have actually been properly randomized. In 2017, he reported his results: at least 2% of the studies were problematic. One was the 2013 NEJM article on the Mediterranean diet. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Making Buildings, Cars and Planes From Materials Based on Plant Fibres

science - Posted On:2018-06-15 18:44:59 Source: slashdot

Materials-science researchers are finding that plant fibres can add durability and strength to substances already used in the construction of buildings and in goods that range from toys and furniture to cars and aircraft. From a report: A big bonus is that, because plants lock up carbon in their structure, using their fibres to make things should mean less carbon dioxide is emitted. The production of concrete alone represents some 5% of man-made global CO{-2} emissions, and making 1kg of plastic from oil produces 6kg of the greenhouse gas. Start with the carrots. These are being investigated by Mohamed Saafi at Lancaster University, in England. Dr Saafi and his colleagues do not use whole carrots, but rather what they call "nanoplatelets" that have been extracted from carrots discarded by supermarkets or as waste from food-processing factories. Sugar-beet peelings are also a useful source of nanoplatelets. The researchers are working with CelluComp, a British firm that produces such platelets for industrial applications, including as an additive that helps toughen the surface of paint as it dries. Each platelet is only a few millionths of a metre across. It consists of a sheet of stiff cellulose fibres. Although the fibres are minute, they are strong. By combining platelets with other materials a powerful composite can be produced. Dr Saafi is mixing the platelets into cement, which is made by burning limestone and clay together at high temperature. To turn cement into concrete it is mixed with aggregates such as sand, stones and crushed rocks, which act as reinforcement, and with water, which reacts with the chemicals in the cement to form a substance called calcium silicate hydrate. This starts off as a thick gel, but then hardens into a solid matrix that binds the aggregates together. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Common drugs have depression as a possible side effect—a third of us take them

Science - Posted On:2018-06-15 14:45:00 Source: arstechnica

More than a third of Americans are estimated to be taking at least one prescription medication that carries the risk of depression, including suicidal symptoms, as a possible adverse effect—and they may have no idea—according to a study published this week in JAMA.

The study is an observational one, meaning it can only identify associations and not whether common drugs are causing depression or suicide in people. Still, the researchers found some worrying links between the use of common medications and the potential for depression. Most notably, the researchers found that those taking three or more medications with depression risks had a greater chance of self-reporting depressive symptoms on a nine-question survey. Their rate of self-reported depressive symptoms was 15.3 percent, about double the rate reported by those taking just one drug with a risk of depression and about triple the rate of those taking no medications with risk of depression.

This is particularly concerning, the researchers suggest, because patients may not make a connection between their depressive symptoms and the drugs they’re taking. Drugs with risks of depression are very common, they may not have clear warning labels, and some can even be purchased as over-the-counter medications. The most common of them are drugs such as hormonal birth control, beta-blockers (used for conditions such as high blood pressure, heart attacks, and migraines), and proton-pump inhibitors (used for acid reflux).

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You may unknowingly take prescription meds with risks of depression

Science - Posted On:2018-06-15 14:15:00 Source: arstechnica

More than a third of Americans are estimated to be taking at least one prescription medication that carries the risk of depression, including suicidal symptoms, as a possible adverse effect—and they may have no idea—according to a study published this week in JAMA.

The study is an observational one, meaning it can only identify associations and not whether common drugs are causing depression or suicide in people. Still, the researchers found some worrying links between the use of common medications and the potential for depression. Most notably, the researchers found that those taking three or more medications with depression risks had a greater chance of self-reporting depressive symptoms on a nine-question survey. Their rate of self-reported depressive symptoms was 15.3 percent, about double the rate reported by those taking just one drug with a risk of depression and about triple the rate of those taking no medications with risks of depressions.

This is particularly concerning, the researchers suggest, because patients may not make a connection between their depressive symptoms and the drugs they’re taking. Drugs with risks of depression are very common, they may not have clear warning labels, and some can even be purchased as over-the-counter medications. The most common of them are drugs such as hormonal birth control, beta-blockers (used for conditions such as high blood pressure, heart attacks, and migraines), and proton-pump inhibitors (used for acid reflux).

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Seafloor fiber optic cables can work like seismometers

Science - Posted On:2018-06-15 12:45:00 Source: arstechnica

There are enough seismometers around these days to detect and locate nearly all earthquakes on land, except the most minuscule ones. The seafloor is another story. It’s expensive and difficult to maintain seismometers at the bottom of the ocean, so our coverage is pretty sparse. Earthquakes smaller than a magnitude four won’t register in many places—and “many places” in the ocean means a large portion of the planet.

A group of researchers led by Giuseppe Marra of the UK’s National Physical Laboratory accidentally stumbled on an inexpensive way to fill in many of the gaps. They were working on advanced fiber optic links capable of connecting things like next-gen atomic clocks around Europe. At this level of sensitivity, any vibrations near the cable introduce noise in the signal, which is generally a nuisance to be overcome.

But while running an experiment on a UK cable in August 2016, they realized the noise in the line was coming from a magnitude 6.0 earthquake in Italy. As the seismic waves pass through the fiber, the resulting distortion slightly delays the signal, causing a measurable shift in the peaks and troughs of the oscillating light wave.

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Stephen Hawking's Voice Beamed Into Space as His Ashes Are Interred

science - Posted On:2018-06-15 10:14:56 Source: slashdot

The ashes of renowned physicist Stephen Hawking were interred at Westminster Abbey in London on Friday in a memorial ceremony attended by a mixture of celebrities and members of the public. From a report: Astronaut Tim Peake and British actor Benedict Cumberbatch and both gave readings, and Astronomer Royal Martin Rees paid tribute to the Hawking's work. Following the service, Hawking's words, set to an original score by composer Vangelis, will be beamed into space by the European Space Agency. Hawking died in March aged 76 after a lifetime of studying the science of space and time. His final resting place is situated between the remains of two other great scientists: Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton. It is a rare honor to be interred at the Abbey, and one that has not been afforded to a scientist for almost 80 years. Before Hawking, the last scientists laid to rest at Westminster were atomic physicists Ernest Rutherford in 1937 and Joseph John Thomson in 1940. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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