Welcome to Science Saturday, where the Overnight News Digest crew, consisting of founder Magnifico, regular editors jlms qkw, maggiejean, wader, rfall, and JML9999, alumni editors palantir, Bentliberal, Oke, Interceptor7, and ScottyUrb, guest editor annetteboardman, and current editor-in-chief Neon Vincent, along with anyone else who reads and comments, informs and entertains you with this week's news about science, space, health, energy, and the environment.
This week's featured story comes from Space.com.
The new exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center leaves you within an arms length of the orbiter that spent over 306 days in Space and orbited the earth nearly 5000 times. The exhibit opens June 29th, 2013.
Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit Set to Launch This Week
by Robert Z. Pearlman, collectSPACE.com Editor
Date: 25 June 2013 Time: 12:14 PM ET
There is a moment in the new Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex when a fantasy becomes reality and the experience is nothing short of magical.
Unlike the theme parks in nearby Orlando, Fla., the attraction here is not the make believe, but the recognition that what you are looking at is in fact real.
"Space Shuttle Atlantis," which debuts on Saturday (June 29), showcases the retired winged spacecraft as part of a $100 million exhibit that has been more than a year in the making. It succeeds in bringing the public nose-to-nose — and nose-to-wing and nose-to-tail — with Atlantis in a way that is unique to every other museum display of a shuttle orbiter.
More stories after the jump.
Recent Science Diaries and Stories
This week in science: Send in the clowns
The First Life on Earth, Part One
by Yosef 52
LiveScience on YouTube: Drones To Protect Endangered Animals | Video
With an initial $5M grant from Google, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) will deploy "unmanned aerial surveillance" drones (UAVs) to search for poachers in Africa and Asia, reporting their positions to rangers. Rhinos will be among the first to benef[it.]
Discovery News on YouTube: The Evolution of Throwing
Throwing is one of the most basic human activities. It can be both useful and fun. But as Trace tells us, for early humans, the act of throwing meant surviving.
Discovery News: Mouse Cloned From Drop Of Blood
Scientists have made a major advancement in the world of cloning-- creating hundreds of identical mice from a single drop of blood. The implications are pretty big. Why? Anthony Carboni as the answers.
Discovery News: White House Down: The Psychology of a Secret Service Agent
In the movie "White House Down," the United States Secret Service is charged with hunting down a terrorist who's taken control of the White House and other critical government buildings in Washington, D.C. So Trace went right to the source, a nearly 30 year veteran of the agency to see what it takes to be a member of this elite group.
Space.com: 'Green' Earth Tour From Space | Video
25% of the Earths surface is green with vegetation. The NASA/NOAA Suomi NPP satellite detects the fine differences is vegetation across the planet and has delivered some of the highest detailed data to date.
Mars and Jupiter will shine bright in the predawn morning skies of July 2013. Learn how to see the planets and the annual Delta Aquarid meteor shower in late July.
Space.com: What It Looks Like To Orbit Mars | Video
Imagine you're on a probe hurtling around the Red Planet. The Mars Webcam (VMC camera) on board the European Space Agency's Mars Express captured many images during a full orbit, which have been sequenced to create this video.
Science at NASA: Opportunity's Improbable Anniversary
When Opportunity left Earth in 2003, many observers expected the rover to survive no more than a few months on the hostile surface of Mars. 10 years later, Opportunity is still going strong and could be poised to make its biggest discoveries yet at a place named Solander Point.
NTDTV on YouTube: NASA To Explore How the Sun Creates Energy
NASA launches the IRIS spacecraft, short for Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, whose mission is to answer a fundamental question of how the sun creates such intense energy.
Kowch737 on YouTube: Shenzhou-10
China successfully completed its longest human space mission as the Shenzhou-10 spacecraft and its crew of two men and one woman returned safely to Earth. The return capsule landed via parachute at 8:07 am local time Wednesday, June 26, 2013 on the grasslands of north China's Inner Mongolia region. The 15-day 'Divine Vessel' mission is part of the Chinese space program's objective of building a permanent space station by 2020.
Space.com on Youtube: 'Star Trek' Fans Unveil Restored Galileo Shuttlecraft | Video
'Star Trek' superfans Adam and Leslie Schneider unveil the fully restored Galileo shuttlecraft, a life-size prop from the iconic 1960s TV science fiction series while fans cheer on June 22, 2013. The Galileo will be donated to Space Center Housto[n.]For more, read the accompanying story under Science is Cool.
Space.com: How Did the Universe Get Its Stars? An Astronomical Puzzle
by Clara Moskowitz, SPACE.com Assistant Managing Editor
Date: 27 June 2013 Time: 02:01 PM ET
Astronomers have come a long way in understanding how stars form today, but the question of how the universe's first stars formed is an enduring mystery. While the topic remains complex and confusing, researchers say they hope to make strides in the near future with new and improved computer models and telescopes.
"How star formation began is very much a controversial question," said astronomer Mordecai-Mark Mac Low of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, who wrote a paper featured in the journal Science today (June 27). "And it's an important one."
Once, there were no stars at all. The universe was an almost uniform expanse of undifferentiated gas. Eventually — perhaps a few million years in, scientists estimate — the first stars began to form, and the rate of star birth reached a peak about 3.8 billion years after the Big Bang (10 billion years ago), when stars were forming at about 10 times the rate they do today.
Space.com: Found! 3 Super-Earth Planets That Could Support Alien Life
by Miriam Kramer, SPACE.com Staff Writer
Date: 25 June 2013 Time: 09:21 AM ET
The habitable zone of a nearby star is filled to the brim with planets that could support alien life, scientists announced today (June 25).
An international team of scientists found a record-breaking three potentially habitable planets around the star Gliese 667C, a star 22 light-years from Earth that is orbited by at least six planets, and possibly as many as seven, researchers said. The three planet contenders for alien life are in the star's "habitable zone" — the temperature region around the star where liquid water could exist. Gliese 667C is part of a three-star system, so the planets could see three suns in their daytime skies.
The three potentially rocky planets in Gliese 667C's habitable zone are known as super-Earths — exoplanets that are less massive than Neptune but more massive than Earth. Their orbits make them possible candidates for hosting life, officials from the European Southern Observatory said in a statement.
Space.com: NASA's Voyager 1 Probe Enters New Realm Near Interstellar Space
by Mike Wall, SPACE.com Senior Writer
Date: 27 June 2013 Time: 02:01 PM ET
NASA's venerable Voyager 1 probe has encountered a strange new region at the outer reaches of the solar system, suggesting the spacecraft is poised to pop free into interstellar space, scientists say.
Voyager 1, which has been zooming through space for more than 35 years, observed a dramatic drop in solar particles and a simultaneous big jump in high-energy galactic cosmic rays last August, the scientists announced in three new studies published today (June 27) in the journal Science.
The probe did not measure a shift in the direction of the ambient magnetic field, indicating that Voyager 1 is still within the sun's sphere of influence, researchers said. But mission scientists think the spacecraft will likely leave Earth's solar system relatively soon.
Space.com: Comet ISON: Will Potential 'Comet of the Century' Get Brighter?
by Joe Rao, SPACE.com Skywatching Columnist
Date: 28 June 2013 Time: 07:01 AM ET
Scientists around the world have been tracking the promising Comet ISON because of its potential to star in a spectacular celestial show later this year, but from now through Aug. 8 the comet is on a "summer sabbatical."
Comet ISON — which some have hailed as the next "comet of the century" — is currently located too near the sun to be seen from Earth. Since June 22, the comet has been less than 18 degrees from the sun and therefore cannot be seen against a dark sky. Your closed fist held at arm's length covers about 10 degrees of the sky.
Currently located against the stars of the zodiacal constellation of Gemini, or the twins, the comet is progressing slowly eastward and will cross over into the boundaries of Cancer, the crab, on Aug. 1. A week later, on Aug. 8, the comet will have moved out as far as 18 degrees from the sun and once again will be evident against a dark sky.
Space.com: NASA's Deep Space Network to Support India's Mars Mission
Date: 28 June 2013 Time: 04:00 PM ET
BANGALORE, India — NASA's Deep Space Network will provide support for India's Mars orbiter mission scheduled for launch this year as part of expanded cooperative ties between the United States and India, the two governments announced June 24 in New Delhi.
"NASA is providing deep space navigation and tracking support services to this mission during the non-visible period of the Indian Deep Space Network," the governments said in a joint statement released during the three-day visit to India by of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
The Mars mission, developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is slated for lift off from India's launch facility at Sriharikota in October or November.
Space.com: Japan to Launch Talking Robot Into Space
by Miriam Kramer, SPACE.com Staff Writer
Date: 27 June 2013 Time: 02:40 PM ET
A small talking robot built in Japan is about to take one giant leap into space.
Kirobo — a humanoid "robot astronaut" that can converse with humans in space and on the ground — is scheduled for launch to the International Space Station on Aug. 4.
Once aboard the orbiting laboratory, Kirobo will take part in the first robot-to-human conversation in space, Kibo Robot Project officials have said.
Space.com: Three Chinese Astronauts Land After Record-Breaking Spaceflight
by Mike Wall, SPACE.com Senior Writer
Date: 25 June 2013 Time: 08:15 PM ET
A Chinese space capsule carrying three astronauts returned safely to Earth Tuesday (June 25), wrapping up the longest manned space mission in the nation's history.
The Shenzhou 10 spacecraft touched down at 8:08 p.m. EDT Tuesday (0008 GMT), capping a 15-day mission to China's orbiting Tiangong 1 lab module. The spacecraft landed in northern China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, where the local time was 8:08 a.m. on Wednesday.
During their time aboard Tiangong 1, Nie Haisheng, Wang Yaping (the second Chinese woman to fly in space) and Zhang Xiaoguang performed a variety of experiments, beamed a microgravity science lesson down to 330 schoolkids and chatted with President Xi Jinping.
Nature (UK): Floating tubes test sea-life sensitivity
Ocean labs probe effects of ocean acidification on ecosystems.
26 June 2013
Global warming is not the only worrying consequence of rising carbon emissions. As levels of carbon dioxide increase in the atmosphere, more of the gas dissolves into the oceans, making the water more acidic. Marine scientists fear that the conditions will disrupt ecosystems by, for example, inhibiting some organisms’ ability to build shells. Yet the effects are unclear: in small-scale laboratory tests, certain species have proved surprisingly resilient, and some even flourish.
Marine biologist Ulf Riebesell says that these results tell only part of the story: scientists need to scale up and examine whole ecosystems. Lab studies of isolated species ignore variables such as competition, predation and disease, he says. Even minor effects of acidification on the fitness of individual species — especially small photosynthetic organisms such as phytoplankton — can upset food chains, eventually harming larger species. “If you only focus on the lab results, you are being misled,” he says.
Nature (UK): Gas drilling taints groundwater
Chemical analysis links methane in drinking wells to shale-gas extraction.
25 June 2013
As shale-gas operations expand across the United States, industry officials and environmentalists are at loggerheads over whether or not shale-gas extraction can contaminate groundwater. Now researchers have traced low levels of methane and other contaminants to a source of shale gas: the sprawling Marcellus Formation, which lies beneath much of New York state, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio (see ‘On tap’) .
The study, led by researchers at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, expands on an earlier analysis of drinking water in northeastern Pennsylvania, where energy companies have used hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to crack the Marcellus Formation and release gas. In that work, the researchers found that contamination rates increased with proximity to wells (S. G. Osborn et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 108, 8172–8176; 2011). Their latest analysis, published on 24 June, goes a step further, by tying the chemical fingerprint of the groundwater contaminants to the gas being siphoned out of the ground some 2,000–3,000 metres below (R. B. Jackson et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA http://doi.org/... 2013).
“The problems we’ve seen are probably more common than people realize,” says Rob Jackson, director of Duke’s Center on Global Change and lead author of the paper. Jackson stresses that the contamination is probably due to poor well construction, rather than hydraulic fracturing itself. But he says that the results are another “wake-up call” for the industry to improve its drilling operations.
Nature (UK): NIH retires most research chimpanzees Posted by Meredith Wadman
26 Jun 2013 | 20:13 BST
The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced today that it will retire to sanctuary nearly all of its research chimpanzees — about 310 animals — leaving a rump colony of up to 50 animals available to researchers who can clear high ethical and regulatory hurdles for using them.
The announcement marks the end of a protracted process, kicked off by a landmark Institute of Medicine report, during which NIH-funded chimpanzee research has come under increasing scrutiny. Separately, the US Fish and Wildlife Service last week said it would declare captive chimps endangered, which also would make the animals tougher to access for biomedical research. The United States is the only major country that still funds invasive chimpanzee research.
Francis Collins, the NIH director, called today’s decision a “real watershed”. “I am confident that greatly reducing their use in biomedical research is scientifically sound and the right thing to do,” he said.
Nature (UK): Plants perform molecular maths
Arithmetic division guides plants' use of energy at night.
24 June 2013
As if making food from light were not impressive enough, it may be time to add another advanced skill to the botanical repertoire: the ability to perform — at least at the molecular level — arithmetic division.
Computer-generated models published in the journal eLife illustrate how plants might use molecular mathematics to regulate the rate at which they devour starch reserves to provide energy throughout the night, when energy from the Sun is off the menu1. If so, the authors say, it would be the first example of arithmetic division in biology.
But it may not be the only one: many animals go through periods of fasting — during hibernations or migrations, for example — and must carefully ration internal energy stores in order to survive. Understanding how arithmetic division could occur at the molecular level might also be useful for the young field of synthetic biology, in which genetic engineers seek standardized methods of tinkering with molecular pathways to create new biological devices.
Nature (UK): Gut microbes spur liver cancer in obese mice
Intestinal bacteria of obese mice brew up carcinogens to trigger liver cancer.
26 June 2013
The gut bacteria of obese mice unleash high levels of an acid that promotes liver cancer, reveals one of the first studies to uncover a mechanism for the link between obesity and cancer. The research is published today in Nature.
“Obesity in general has many different types of cancer associated with it,” says Eiji Hara, a cancer biologist at the Japanese Foundation for Cancer Research in Tokyo and one of the study authors. But in the case of liver cancer, he says, “I never expected the microbiome was linked.”
Hara and his colleagues initially set out to study how dying cells influence obesity-linked cancers. Cells that are irreparably damaged or pre-cancerous can become senescent — meaning that they stop dividing for overall health of the organism. But before senescent cells die, they can spew out chemicals that may cause inflammation and promote cancer development.
Nature (UK): Father’s genetic quest pays off
Mutation provides clue to daughter’s undefined syndrome.
26 June 2013
Hugh Rienhoff says that his nine-year-old daughter, Bea, is “a fire cracker”, “a tomboy” and “a very sassy, impudent girl”. But in a forthcoming research paper, he uses rather different terms, describing her hypertelorism (wide spacing between the eyes) and bifid uvula (a cleft in the tissue that hangs from the back of the palate). Both are probably features of a genetic syndrome that Rienhoff has obsessed over since soon after Bea’s birth in 2003. Unable to put on much muscle mass, Bea wears braces on her skinny legs to steady her on her curled feet. She is otherwise healthy, but Rienhoff has long worried that his daughter’s condition might come with serious heart problems.
Rienhoff, a biotech entrepreneur in San Carlos, California, who had trained as a clinical geneticist in the 1980s, went from doctor to doctor looking for a diagnosis. He bought lab equipment so that he could study his daughter’s DNA himself — and in the process, he became a symbol for the do-it-yourself biology movement, and a trailblazer in using DNA technologies to diagnose a rare disease (see Nature 449, 773–776; 2007).
“Talk about personal genomics,” says Gary Schroth, a research and development director at the genome-sequencing company Illumina in San Diego, California, who has helped Rienhoff in his search for clues. “It doesn’t get any more personal than trying to figure out what’s wrong with your own kid.”
Now nearly a decade into his quest, Rienhoff has arrived at an answer.
Nature (UK): Bid to cure HIV ramps up
Clinical trial will aim to replicate virus-expunging therapy that worked in US infant.
Erika Check Hayden
26 June 2013
HIV-positive mothers who take antiretroviral therapies while pregnant can be prevented from transmitting the virus to their babies 99% of the time — a resounding success story in the decades-long fight against the virus. But what about infants whose mothers do not receive the drugs? Energized by the case of the ‘Mississippi baby’ — who seemed to be cured of HIV after aggressive treatment was begun within hours of birth — researchers are hoping to show that these infants, too, can get off to a healthy start.
At a symposium on HIV cure research on 29 June at the International AIDS Society’s biennial meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, investigators will describe how they are racing to design a clinical trial to test whether the early treatment works, and why. They hope to treat the first babies by the end of this year.
The trial, sponsored by the International Maternal Pediatric Adolescent AIDS Clinical Trials (IMPAACT) Group, marks a change for the field: so far, most research worldwide has focused on adults. In 2012, the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland, spent US$18 million on HIV cure research in adults and adolescents, and just $45,000 on children. Yet 3.3 million children worldwide have HIV.
Nature (UK): Blocking boozy memories reduces risk of relapse
Molecule associated with learning and memory could be key to treating alcoholism.
23 June 2013
Wiping out drinking-associated memories could help those with alcohol problems to stay sober, suggests a study in rats.
As with other forms of addiction, environmental cues linked to drinking — such as the smell of beer — can trigger the urge to consume alcohol and increase the risk of a relapse into abuse. Over time, these learned associations can be maddeningly difficult to break.
Scientists have now identified a potential molecular target in the brains of rats that could one day lead to treatments to help people stay dry. Dorit Ron, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and her team show that strategically blocking the mTORC1 signalling pathway reduces alcoholic relapse by disrupting memories linked to past drinking. This pathway controls the production of several proteins associated with learning and memory.
LiveScience: Social Lemurs Have More 'Street Smarts,' Study Finds
By Denise Chow, Staff Writer
Date: 28 June 2013 Time: 01:16 PM ET
Lemurs that come from big tribes and live in large groups exhibit more "social smarts" than those that live with only a few companions, finds a new study that suggests the size of a primate's social network could influence its social intelligence.
Researchers designed a series of experiments to test lemurs' social cognition. Essentially, the scientists were curious how lemurs process a situation — specifically, how they decide whether or not a human can see them — and then how they use that information in manipulative ways — in this case, to steal a piece of food if they think they are not being watched, said lead study author Evan MacLean, a senior researcher in the department of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University in Durham, N.C.
"There's an idea that animals that live in big groups develop important psychological abilities, because they have to figure out how to get their way in an environment where they can't always get their way," MacLean told LiveScience.
LiveScience: Why Women Are More Likely to Be Bisexual
By Tia Ghose, Staff Writer
Date: 28 June 2013 Time: 10:45 AM ET
Women may be more "hetero-flexible," or be primarily attracted to men with some same sex attraction, because same-sex behavior allowed women to raise their children with other women, a new study has proposed.
The hypothesis, published this April in the journal Evolutionary Psychology, suggests that more fluid female sexuality may have evolved because it benefited women's offspring. Some women who were raped or fathered children with absentee or deceased dads formed sexual relationships with other women, which may have made it easier to raise children together, according to the theory.
"Being born with the ability to [be attracted to men and women] may have been beneficial to ancestral women," said study co-author Barry X. Kuhle, a psychologist at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania.
Space.com: Cave Art Reveals Ancient View of Cosmos
by Miriam Kramer, Staff Writer
Date: 27 June 2013 Time: 03:00 PM ET
Some of the oldest art in the United States maps humanity's place in the cosmos, as aligned with an ancient religion.
A team of scientists has uncovered a series of engravings and drawings strategically placed in open air and within caves by prehistoric groups of Native American settlers that depict their cosmological understanding of the world around them.
"The subject matter of this artwork, what they were drawing pictures of, we knew all along was mythological, cosmological," Jan Simek, an archaeologist at the University of Tennessee said. "They draw pictures of bird men that are important characters in their origin stories and in their hero legends, and so we knew it was a religious thing and because of that, we knew that it potentially referred to this multitiered universe that was the foundation of their cosmology."
LiveScience: Chilean Mummies Reveal Ancient Nicotine Habit
By Joseph Castro, LiveScience Contributor
Date: 28 June 2013 Time: 01:27 PM ET
The hair of mummies from the town of San Pedro de Atacama in Chile reveals the people in the region had a nicotine habit spanning from at least 100 B.C. to A.D. 1450.
Additionally, nicotine consumption occurred on a society-wide basis, irrespective of social status and wealth, researchers say.
The finding refutes the popular view that the group living in this region smoked tobacco for just a short stint before moving on to snuffing hallucinogens.
LiveScience: Archaeologists Return to Richard III Gravesite
By Megan Gannon, News Editor
Date: 28 June 2013 Time: 10:59 AM ET
Archaeologists are about to break fresh ground in the place where the long-lost remains of King Richard III were discovered.
Last summer, excavators found the monarch's battle-scarred bones underneath a parking lot in Leicester, England, in the medieval ruins of Grey Friars church. On Monday (July 1), the same archaeologists will begin a four-week dig at the site, hoping more discoveries lie in Richard's final resting place.
Three other tombs were exposed during the zealous search for the king, including a 600-year-old lead-lined stone coffin. In the expanded excavation, the University of Leicester team will investigate this grave; they believe it may contain the body of Sir William Moton, a knight thought to have been buried at Grey Friars in 1362, more than 100 years earlier than Richard III's death in 1485.
Nature (UK): First horses arose 4 million years ago
The oldest full genome sequence, recovered from ancient horse bone, pushes back equine origins by 2 million years.
Erika Check Hayden
26 June 2013
The humble horse has provided the oldest full genome sequence of any species — from a specimen more than half a million years old, found frozen in the permafrost of the Canadian Arctic. The finding, published in Nature today, pushes back the known origins of the equine lineage by about 2 million years, and yields a variety of evolutionary insights.
The sequence was extracted from a foot bone of a horse that lived between 780,000 and 560,000 years ago. By sequencing the animal's genome, along with those of a 43,000-year-old horse, five modern domestic horse breeds, a wild Przewalski’s horse and a donkey, researchers were able to trace the evolutionary history of the horse family in unprecedented detail. They estimate that the ancient ancestor of the modern Equus genus, which includes horses, donkeys and zebras, branched off from other animal lineages about 4 million years ago — twice as long ago as scientists had previously thought.
“We have beaten the time barrier,” says evolutionary biologist Ludovic Orlando of the University of Copenhagen, who led the work with colleague Eske Willerslev. Noting that the oldest DNA sequenced before this came from a polar bear between 110,000 and 130,000 years old, Orlando says: “All of a sudden, you have access to many more extinct species than you could have ever dreamed of sequencing before.”
LiveScience: Finding the Path to Earth's Early Oxygen
By Becky Oskin, Staff Writer
Date: 28 June 2013 Time: 02:17 PM ET
The game changer for life on Earth was photosynthesis. Now scientists think they've found a molecular stepping-stone for this complicated chemical process, which flooded the atmosphere with oxygen about 2.4 billion years ago.
Tiny single-celled organisms called cyanobacteria were the first life on Earth to master photosynthesis. They use light from the sun to split water molecules, releasing oxygen as waste. Many researchers suspect the oxidation of the element manganese by earlier life-forms was the first step in developing this molecular machinery — the metal still plays a critical role in photosynthesis today.
At its most basic, the process of oxidation removes electrons from atoms. In this case, the early microbes stole electrons from manganese, replacing them with oxygen taken from carbon dioxide. The result is manganese oxide, similar to iron rust or copper's green patina.
Nature (UK): Water flow tracks earthquake healing
Rock permeability in the fault that unleashed China's 2008 quake shows that fractures mend quicker than was thought.
27 June 2013
Instruments buried half a kilometre beneath the Chinese countryside show just how quickly a geological fault heals after a major earthquake. The work may be the best glimpse yet at how rock recovers in a fault zone.
In the years after the devastating 2008 Sichuan quake, which killed at least 70,000 people, researchers studied the rate at which groundwater seeped into a borehole at the fault as a measure of its healing process. Fracturing during a violent earthquake increases rocks' permeability to water, but this decreases again as the rock heals.
The team found that the rate of water flowing into the hole slowed rapidly during an 18-month observation period starting about two years after the quake. This indicated that tiny fractures in the rock might have been shrinking, constricting the water flow and essentially healing the fault.
Nature (UK): Sulphur back in vogue for batteries
Lithium–sulphur batteries benefit from new materials.
Richard Van Noorden
26 June 2013
A type of battery first proposed in the 1960s is attracting a fresh surge of interest as scientists and engineers look for ways to extend the range of electric vehicles. The veteran system is the lithium–sulphur battery, now back in fashion as the limitations of expensive, low-capacity lithium-ion batteries become ever more apparent. Over the past two years, what was a trickle of publications has gathered into a wave (see ‘The lithium–sulphur charge’) as scientists wear down once-major stumbling blocks, and the area attracts more funding.
Chemists say that there is substance to the buzz. Although researchers are wary of over-stating the case, “we believe that lithium–sulphur is the way to go”, says Ilias Belharouak, a materials scientist who works on batteries at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. “There’s promise from many different labs — and some approaches really are working,” adds Linda Nazar, a chemist who studies lithium–sulphur batteries at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.
Nature (UK): Location may stymie wind and solar power benefits
The health and climate gains made by green energies are often lowest in the windiest or sunniest places.
24 June 2013
Wind farms and solar installations are often located in places where they will have the least impact on climate and health, a report finds.
These renewable energies emit less carbon dioxide and air pollution than burning fossil fuels for electricity. But the windiest and sunniest places in the United States — such as the southwestern plains and deserts — are not always the most socially and environmentally beneficial sites for wind turbines and solar panels. The benefits, according to a study published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences1, vary depending on what energy sources are being replaced.
New wind and solar installations displace the most carbon dioxide and air pollutants where they replace the coal-fired plants found predominantly in eastern and Midwestern states such as Indiana and Pennsylvania. The benefits are much smaller in California and the US southwest, where cleaner gas-fired plants are more common.
Nature (UK): 'Corkscrew' light could turbocharge the Internet
Different-shaped beams could increase fibre-optic capacity, easing Internet congestion.
27 June 2013
Twisty beams of light could boost the traffic-carrying capacity of the Internet, effectively adding new levels to the information superhighway, suggests research published today in Science1.
Internet traffic is growing exponentially and researchers have sought ways to squeeze ever more information into the fibre-optic cables that carry it. One successful method used over the last 20 years essentially added more traffic lanes, using different colours, or wavelengths, for different signals2. But to compensate for the added lanes, each one had to be made narrower. So, just as in a real highway, the spacing could get only so tight before the streams of data began to jumble together.
In the last few years, different groups of researchers have tried to encode information in the shape of light beams to ease congestion, using a property of light called orbital angular momentum. Currently, a straight beam of light is used to transmit Internet signals, but certain filters can twist it so that it corkscrews around with varying degrees of curliness as it travels.
Nature (UK): Proof mooted for quantum uncertainty
Study confirms principle’s limits on measurement accuracy.
25 June 2013
Encapsulating the strangeness of quantum mechanics is a single mathematical expression. According to every undergraduate physics textbook, the uncertainty principle states that it is impossible to simultaneously know the exact position and momentum of a subatomic particle — the more precisely one knows the particle’s position at a given moment, the less precisely one can know the value of its momentum.
But the original version of the principle, put forward by physicist Werner Heisenberg in 1927, couches quantum indeterminism in a different way — as a fundamental limit to how well a detector can measure quantum properties. Heisenberg offered no direct proof for this version of his principle, and expressed his ideas “only informally and intuitively”, says physicist Jos Uffink of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
Now researchers say that they have a formal proof. “Our work shows that you can’t measure something with an accuracy any better than the fundamental quantum uncertainty,” says Paul Busch, a theoretical physicist at the University of York, UK, who with his colleagues posted the proof on 6 June on the arXiv preprint server. Not only does the work place this measurement aspect of the uncertainty principle on solid ground — something that researchers had started to question — but it also suggests that quantum-encrypted messages can be transmitted securely.
LiveScience: Nanoparticles Help Scientists Tell Left From Right
Elizabeth Palermo, TechNewsDaily Contributor
Date: 28 June 2013 Time: 12:25 PM ET
Have trouble telling left from right? Believe it not, so do molecular scientists. But a new method that amplifies the difference between right-handed and left-handed molecules could make things easier for scientists and lead to the development of new nanomaterials, optical sensors and pharmaceutical drugs.
A team of scientists at the U.S Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory and Ohio University have developed a way to make determining the handedness, or chirality, of molecules simpler.
In biology, left and right molecular designs are crucial. Living things are only made from left-handed molecules. A left-handed molecule of a particular compound could be an effective drug while its right-handed counterpart is completely inactive.
Science Crime Scenes
Nature (UK): Dutch psychology fraudster avoids trial
Posted by Richard Van Noorden
28 Jun 2013 | 16:07 BST
Disgraced Dutch social psychologist Diederik Stapel, who in 2011 was found to have fabricated data in at least 30 published papers, will not face trial for misuse of public research funds. Instead, in a pre-trial settlement, Stapel has agreed to 120 hours of community service, according to a statement (in Dutch) from the Dutch public prosecutor’s office.
In the settlement, Stapel also agreed not to make a claim on 18 months of half-pay salary that he might have been entitled to contest under Dutch law, as he had said he was sick when he was suspended and fired in September 2011 by Tilburg University.
LiveScience: FDA Cracks Down on Illegal Pharmacy Websites
Bahar Gholipour, LiveScience Staff Writer
Date: 28 June 2013 Time: 10:11 AM ET
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and international regulators shut down 1,677 illegal online pharmacy websites this week, and seized more than $41 million worth of illegal medicine worldwide, according to a statement by the FDA.
The authorities seized the offending websites, and posted messages on them warning visitors about the websites' alleged illegal activities, and the potential harms of buying counterfeit drugs.
Some websites used names similar to some major pharmacy retailers in the United States, such as Walgreens and CVS, to imply an affiliation with these retailers, according to the FDA.
LiveScience: Surveillance Cams Get Party Hats for Orwell's Birthday
by Marshall Honorof, TechNewsDaily Staff Writer
Date: 27 June 2013 Time: 05:53 PM ET
Famed author George Orwell was born on June 25, 1903, and two Dutch artists decided that the best way to celebrate his birthday was with party hats — on closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras.
The duo, which calls itself FRONT404, created an impromptu art exhibit in Utrecht, Netherlands, by affixing a number of colorful party hats to neighborhood CCTV cameras. With surveillance technology all over the news and Orwell's dystopian novel "1984" proving eerily prophetic, combining a birthday party with government spying seemed apropos.
"By putting these happy party hats on the surveillance cameras, we don't just celebrate Orwell's birthday.By making these inconspicuous cameras that we ignore in our daily lives catch the eye again, we also create awareness of how many cameras really watch us nowadays, and that the surveillance state described by Orwell is getting closer and closer to reality," Thomas voor 't Hekke and Bas van Oerle, the two men behind FRONT404, wrote on the project's website.
Science, Space, Environment, and Energy Policy
Space.com: Supreme Court Gay Marriage Rulings Hailed by NASA Deputy Chief
by Clara Moskowitz, SPACE.com Assistant Managing Editor
Date: 26 June 2013 Time: 05:28 PM ET
Even top NASA officials are celebrating the landmark same-sex marriage decision made by the U.S. Supreme Court today (June 26). Lori Garver, NASA's second-in-command, is hailing the ruling as a major win for equal rights.
The highest U.S. court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which had prevented the federal government from recognizing legal same-sex marriages performed by states.
"This is a great day for equality and inclusion in America," Garver, who serves as NASA's deputy administrator, wrote on her agency blog today. "In striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Supreme Court has sent a clear message that all legal marriages in America, regardless of gender, are deserving of equal dignity under the law."
Nature (UK): Obama calls for limits on existing power plants
White House would avoid Congress in plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
25 June 2013
Ending months of speculation, US President Barack Obama today called for regulations that would limit carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants — perhaps the single-largest regulatory question the administration faces on global warming.
Obama unveiled the wide-ranging climate change plan in a speech at Georgetown University in Washington DC, pledging to "put an end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from our power plants."
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will work with states, industry and other stakeholders on a power-plant rule that will promote a "common-sense, timely transition to a clean-energy economy", White House officials told reporters on Monday. But the administration, which aims to introduce the proposal by next June and finalize it by June 2015, is not committing to specific emissions reductions.
Space.com: NASA Chief Lauds Obama's Climate Change Plan
by Megan Gannon, News Editor
Date: 26 June 2013 Time: 04:48 PM ET
President Barack Obama's ambitious new strategy to combat climate change has won big praise from NASA, with the head of the U.S. space agency pledging a steadfast commitment to tracking the health of planet Earth.
"Having looked back at Earth from outer space, I have seen just how fragile our home planet is — and I'm committed to doing everything I can to help protect it," NASA chief Charles Bolden, a former space shuttle commander, wrote in a NASA blog post Wednesday (June 26).
Obama outlined his climate change action plan a day earlier in a speech at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. The president's proposal focuses on reducing the amount of carbon pollution in the country, leading the global effort to fight climate change, and preparing U.S. communities to endure the extreme weather expected to become more frequent in a warming world.
Space.com: China's Spaceflight Success Sets Stage for Big Space Station
by Leonard David, SPACE.com’s Space Insider Columnist
Date: 28 June 2013 Time: 03:12 PM ET
The successful landing of China's latest manned space mission this week cast a spotlight on the country's growing human spaceflight skills as it hones the capabilities needed to build a huge, permanently crewed space station.
In a post-landing press conference, Wang Zhaoyao, Director General of the China Manned Space Agency, said, "With a complete success of this spaceflight mission as a milestone, China's manned space program will enter into a new phase of manned space station construction."
According to a report from the Asia News Network, Wang said the country would loft the Tiangong 2 space lab around 2015. Three years later, an experimental core space station module would be lofted, he said, with the focus on constructing a 60-ton, multi-module space station for China by 2020.
Wang said that between 2015 and 2020, a series of cargo and piloted spacecraft would deliver supplies and transport astronauts to the space lab and space station.
Space.com: Where to See NASA's Space Shuttles This Summer
by Miriam Kramer, SPACE.com Staff Writer
Date: 28 June 2013 Time: 05:32 PM ET
With the opening of the space shuttle Atlantis' permanent exhibit in Florida on Saturday (June 29), the last of NASA's retired space planes will be officially on display for the public to enjoy, but you'll have to go state-hopping to see all four of the iconic spacecraft.
From Los Angeles to New York, the space shuttles have made their homes around the country. If you're looking for a good summer vacation destination, try visiting one (or all)of the orbiters that have been put out to pasture.
The space shuttles on public display include NASA's three space-flown orbiters — Atlantis, Discovery and Endeavour — as well as the Enterprise, a prototype shuttle used for landing glide tests but never flew in space.
LiveScience: Trouble Teaching Science? There's an App for That
David Alviar, Rice University; and Lily Whiteman, National Science Foundation
Date: 28 June 2013 Time: 06:16 PM ET
Have you ever struggled mightily to teach a scientific concept to your child or students — convinced that your lesson would "click" more easily if only you could reinforce it with a catchy song or fun activity?
If so, you'll be happy to know that now there's an app for that: Called SciRave, this free app combines the power of music, the fun of tactile learning and the world of science in fast-paced, educational online activities that help teach basic scientific concepts and vocabulary to students K-12.
Science Writing and Reporting
Space.com: Space Race TV Pilot Being Penned by 'Star Trek' Screenwriter
by Robert Z. Pearlman, collectSPACE.com Editor
Date: 28 June 2013 Time: 09:35 AM ET
The story of how the space race between the United States and former Soviet Union was born out of the Cold War may be retold as a new television series now being developed by a newly-launched production company and a "Star Trek" screenwriter.
Primeridian Entertainment said Wednesday (June 26) that it has hired "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" screenwriter and director Nicholas Meyer to write a pilot episode and treatment for the TV series, which "will examine the tense competition between the U.S. and USSR superpowers at the height of the Cold War, starting with the scramble to capture the remains of the Nazi V-2 [rocket] program."
To help Meyer shape that story, Primeridian has optioned the rights to "Red Moon Rising: Sputnik and the Hidden Rivalries That Ignited the Space Age," the 2007 book by Matthew Brzezinski, a former Moscow correspondent for The Wall Street Journal.
Science is Cool
Space.com: 'Star Trek' Superfans Restore Galileo Shuttlecraft to 1960s Sci-Fi Glory
Tariq Malik, Managing Editor
Date: 29 June 2013 Time: 05:00 PM ET
A life-size spaceship prop from TV's original "Star Trek" series, once lost and in shambles, has been lovingly restored to its former glory by die-hard fans so it can live long and prosper as a museum piece.
After nine months of restoration, the Galileo shuttlecraft — a life-size spaceship prop from the iconic 1960s science fiction TV series — was publicly unveiled last week in a ceremony amid loud cheers from a crowd of "Star Trek" fans and friends on hand to see the ship before its sendoff to its final frontier. It shipped off Space Center Houston, the visitor's center for NASA's Johnson Space Center, on Wednesday (June 26).
"This is amazing," "Star Trek" superfan Adam Schneider told a crowd of more than 350 friends and fellow fans as he unveiled the restored Galileo on June 22 in Atlantic Highlands, N.J. Schneider bought the huge Trek spaceship prop at auction with the specific goal of restoring it and donating it to a museum for the public to enjoy. "Despite spending [nearly] 50 years basically outdoors, for a prop built to last a year or two, she's ready for her next journey."
Space.com: Twinkle, Twinkle Little Sapphire: Space-Inspired Jewelry Sparkles in Exhibit
by Clara Moskowitz, SPACE.com Assistant Managing Editor
Date: 25 June 2013 Time: 06:50 AM ET
NEW YORK — From twinkling stars and graceful comets to glowing rockets, space has been a popular subject for jewelers throughout history. Now an exhibition draws together choice examples of space-themed jewelry from before the space race to today.
On display at the Forbes Galleries from March 16 through Sept. 7, "Out of This World! Jewelry in the Space Age" showcases stunning items of adornment such as a rocket-shaped diamond brooch, a necktie featuring the solar system's planets made of precious stones, and a large collection of pins, earrings and other baubles themed after Sputnik, the first human-made satellite.
"I was astounded how much there was of contemporary space-related jewelry," said the exhibition's curator, Elyse Zorn Karlin, co-director of the Association for the Study of Jewelry and Related Arts. "I think it was constant once Sputnik was launched and we entered the space race, and I think it was more prevalent than anyone thinks."
Space.com: Final Frontier? 'Star Trek' Tech Becoming Reality (Op-Ed)
By Ron Atkins, NewSpace Daily
Date: 24 June 2013 Time: 06:45 PM ET
Beyond all the eye-popping special effects and all the top secret special revelations, the latest incarnation of "Star Trek" from director J.J. Abrams left this moviegoer with several vivid impressions still buzzing through his brain long after having left the theater.
About halfway through the film, as Lieutenant Commander Montgomery Scott's fusion-powered shuttlecraft closed in on the orbit of Jupiter, that relatively short interplanetary milk run brought to mind several recently published articles on the subject of advanced deep-space propulsion.
The promise of Mars in 30 days, or Mars in just a few weeks, was the common theme running through most of the articles. Exotic new engine technologies designed to produce constant acceleration would also generate a degree of artificial gravity while propelling those spacecraft toward their Red Planet rendezvous.
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