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NASA reveals manned Mars mission plans

NASA says it will send a 400,000kg crewed spacecraft on a 30-month round trip to Mars as early as February 2031. The details of the planned mission were announced at a meeting in Houston, Texas, the BBC reports. According to the plans, the spacecraft will be built in orbit, being far too large to ever be lifted from the bottom …
Lucy Sherriff, 29 Nov 2007
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Boffins report lightning on Venus, our non-identical twin

The European Space Agency's Venus Express probe has confirmed that there is lightning on our twin planet. This means that lightning has been confirmed on four of the solar system's eight official planets, but Venus' storms are unique. While lightning on Earth, Jupiter and Saturn is all associated with water clouds, the …
Lucy Sherriff, 29 Nov 2007
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Only bicarbonate of soda can save mankind!

A US firm has come up with a plan to turn the carbon dioxide emitted by coal-burning power plants into bicarbonate of soda. Joe David Jones, founder of Skyonic, says he can capture 90 per cent of the carbon coming out of a smokestack and turn it into a harmless baking ingredient thanks to his Skymine process. The "baking soda" …
Lucy Sherriff, 27 Nov 2007
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Dinosaurs derail desalination drive Down under

A fossilised spanner has been thrown into the works of plans for Australia's largest desalination plant, as a hoard of dino-remains has been uncovered on the beach near the proposed site. The plant, intended to protect Melbourne from drought, was being built at a cost of A$3bn, but the dinosaur discovery has put its future in …
Lucy Sherriff, 27 Nov 2007
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Boffins ponder Galileo signals as ocean monitors

Private enterprise might not know how to make any money from it, but academics are already thinking of uses for it. Yes, it is the Galileo system, Europe's answer to GPS. Scientists at the University of Surrey, along with spin-out firm SSTL, have managed to detect the reflection of signals sent down from an orbiting prototype …
Lucy Sherriff, 27 Nov 2007
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Britain's home front must go green, study

The UK's domestic carbon footprint could be reduced by 80 per cent by 2050, and a good start can be made using existing technologies, according to a report from an Oxford University academic. Brenda Boardman, a senior research fellow at Oxford University's Environmental Change Institute, said that reducing emissions from people' …
Lucy Sherriff, 27 Nov 2007
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Melting ice kills polar bears, say boffins

Al Gore might have been partly right after all. Melting sea ice could indeed be contributing to the death of polar bears, but the cause is more likely starvation than drowning*. Researchers analysing 20 years of population data of polar bears in Canada's Hudson Bay report a correlation between yearly survival rates of the very …
Lucy Sherriff, 26 Nov 2007
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China celebrates first lunar pictures

China is celebrating the first pictures of the Moon beamed back by its Chang'e 1 spacecraft. The country's leaders hailed the mission as a success, but downplayed reports of plans to put a man on the Moon by 2020. China's first pics of the moon. Credit: Xinhaunet China's first pics of the moon. Credit: Xinhaunet "There are no …
Lucy Sherriff, 26 Nov 2007
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Mars Express circles planet 5,000 times

Mars Express has completed 5,000 orbits of the red planet, just short of four years after it arrived on Christmas day, 2003. The craft has sent back marvellously detailed pictures of Mars' surface, adding to our knowledge of the planet's geological history and evolution. Clay deposits on Mars Clay deposits on Mars. Most …
Lucy Sherriff, 26 Nov 2007
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Galileo tugs on public purse strings

EU states have hit upon a compromise deal that will allow them to fund the Galileo satellite project, and save some face. States voted to back a €2.4bn funding deal, drawing cash from unused farming subsidies, and restructuring research and industrial spending for the year. This means the European rival to the US military's GPS …
Lucy Sherriff, 26 Nov 2007
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Russia plans manned space launch centre

Russia is all set to build a new space launch facility, and has its eye on a completion date in 2015. The announcement is yet more confirmation of the rising temperature of international competition in space exploration, and of Russia's determination to be beholden to no one in its bid to conquer the stars. According to local …
Lucy Sherriff, 24 Nov 2007
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Researchers find massive mud flow off African coast

It happened 60,000 years ago, so we'll concede that we're a bit late with the news, but scientists have uncovered evidence of the largest ever flow of sand and mud, off the coast of north-west Africa. Researchers report in Nature that over the course of mere hours, or days, some 225 billion metric tonnes of sediment was dumped …
Lucy Sherriff, 23 Nov 2007
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Missing data found on mysterious comet, Darling

All your data are belong to...er... someone else, we just don't know who You might have noticed a small story going around this week about the government losing a bit of data on some of Her Majesty's subjects... You know, the 25 million personal records of child benefit recipients that were stuffed on to a couple of CDs that …
Lucy Sherriff, 23 Nov 2007
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UK gov bans 'terror' suspect from science class

The UK government is facing a High Court challenge over its decision to ban a suspected terrorist from studying sixth-form science courses, lest he use the knowledge he might gain for terrorist purposes. The government already suspects the man, an Iraqi national referred to in the case as 'A.E.', of terrorist affiliations, and …
Lucy Sherriff, 22 Nov 2007
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Britain's waterways turning 'healthy' brown

A new study has revealed that Britain's rivers and streams are much healthier, if less aesthetically pleasing, than they were two decades ago. The change has been linked with the decline of acid rain since the 1970s, clearing up a riddle that has puzzled researchers for some time. But researchers warn that similar work in the …
Lucy Sherriff, 22 Nov 2007
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UK Gov confirms new Foot and Mouth leak

The government has confirmed that it is investigating another "probable" leak of the foot and mouth virus from Pirbright, the site at the centre of the summer's outbreak of the disease. There are two facilities on the Pirbright site: one is the government owned and managed Institute for Animal Health, and the other, Merial, a …
Lucy Sherriff, 22 Nov 2007
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Moon makes us extra special, scientists say

Having a moon like ours makes us very special, cosmically speaking. This is according to proper scientists at the Universities of Arizona and Florida (as opposed to Mystic Meg), who've been searching the universe with the Spitzer space telescope for other planetary systems like ours. The Earth-Moon system is a rarity in the …
Lucy Sherriff, 22 Nov 2007
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Brian May appointed university chancellor

Ringlet-topped axe-slinger Brian May (PhD) has been appointed Chancellor of Liverpool's John Moores University, after he was named an honorary fellow of the university last year. Dr. May will take over from Cherie Blair in February next year. Dr. May was awarded his PhD after standing up to the academic scrutiny of a viva at …
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Nov 2007
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Analysts warn of US broadband meltdown

Analysts in the US are warning that the country's broadband infrastructure will not be able to keep up with demand, and without massive investment will have reached maximum capacity by 2010. A study from Nemertes Research predicts a massive increase in the amount of traffic that the network has to carry, and a subsequent …
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Nov 2007
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Most doctors plan to dodge health database

The majority of family doctors have said they will shun a government plan to stuff a database full of all our medical records. According to a poll conducted by the Guardian, 59 per cent of GPs said they would not put records on the so-called spine without the consent of a patient, and fully three-quarters say records will be …
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Nov 2007
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Brown pledges to be greener than greens

Are we on the brink of a green revolution? One as world changing as the Industrial Revolution, or the invention of the microprocessor? According to Britain's prime minister, Gordon Brown, we had better be. In yesterday's speech about climate change, Brown took on the question of how we should tackle climate change with a …
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Nov 2007
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Having a migraine? Blame your brain

People who suffer from migraines have differently structured brains. According to new research, those who suffer from the severe headaches (often accompanied by nausea and "aura" - patterns of lights dancing before the eyes) have a thickening in the region of the brain that processes sensory information. A study of 24 volunteers …
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Nov 2007
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Americans clueless on NASA budgets

A recent survey, carried out on behalf of The Space Review, has revealed that the average American believes a quarter of the country's public purse goes towards funding NASA. The survey found that most people reported the belief that NASA is almost as well funded as the military. The Department of Defense does receive roughly 21 …
Lucy Sherriff, 19 Nov 2007
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Stuff string theory - try E8 to explain the universe

The mathematics that underlie the E8 Lie Group, a 248-dimensional puzzle that was finally solved in March this year, have already been put to use in developing a new Theory Of Everything. A representation of E8. Credit: Peter McMullen A representation of E8. Credit: John Stembridge, based on the work of Peter McMullen …
Lucy Sherriff, 19 Nov 2007
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Brown blushes over green cuts

Gordon Brown is preparing to give his first major speech on the action the government is taking to tackle climate change, but it will be against a background of massive cuts in the government agency charged with managing the environment, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). According to a Guardian …
Lucy Sherriff, 19 Nov 2007
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Nano cancer-bombs and mini organs from MIT

Scientists at MIT have developed remote-controlled nano particles that, with the push of a button, can deliver drugs directly to a tumour. The same research director has also found a way to build tiny human "livers" just 500 micrometres across. This work should lead to more reliable toxicity testing for new drugs. According to …
Lucy Sherriff, 19 Nov 2007
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IPCC's final report on climate change due tomorrow

The final part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2007 report is due to be published tomorrow. The IPCC scientists are expected to warn that the effects of climate change will be "abrupt and irreversible", according to reports. The report is, as you might expect, a distillation of the IPCC's publications during …
Lucy Sherriff, 16 Nov 2007
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UK patent rules put firms at disadvantage

Until recently InRotis, a small company spun out of Newcastle University, was part of a High Court action aimed at forcing the UK Intellectual Property Office to ensure the patent protection offered to UK patent holders matches that available in Europe. However, the firm was granted a European patent for its work, and as a …
Lucy Sherriff, 16 Nov 2007
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Aussie-Irish boozer ejects 'terrorist' drinker

In a story replete with irony, a man has been booted out of an Irish pub in Cairns after his fellow drinkers, disturbed by his choice of reading material, reported him to the pub management. He was reading The Unknown Terrorist, a fictional thriller that tells the story of a ballet dancer who has a dodgy one-night stand with …
Lucy Sherriff, 16 Nov 2007
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Museum archive turns up new dinosaur family

A PhD student has uncovered a new family of dinosaur, not in a cliff face, or in a desert, but tucked away in a dusty archive in the Natural History Museum in London since 1890. Mike Taylor said that the specimen leapt out at him as being totally unfamiliar. "I've spent the last five years doing nothing but looking at sauropod …
Lucy Sherriff, 16 Nov 2007
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Europe eyes six Martian landing sites

The European Space Agency (ESA) has compiled a shortlist of places it would like to look for life (past or present) on Mars. Artists impression of the rover. Credit: ESA Artist's impression of the Rover. Credit: ESA The agency says its ExoMars mission, planned for a 2013 launch, will touch down on some of the red planet's …
Lucy Sherriff, 16 Nov 2007
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Rosetta spies nightlife on our sleeping planet

What better way to start a Friday than with a stupendously glorious picture of our planet? Well, we couldn't think of many better ways that are legal, so we've gone for the picture option. The Earth's night side, as seen by Rosetta. Credit: ESA The Earth's night side, as seen by Rosetta. Credit: ESA This is a composite image …
Lucy Sherriff, 16 Nov 2007
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Neuroboffins develop mind-reading computers

A man who has been paralysed for the last eight years might be able to "speak" again, by having his thoughts read by a computer. Eric Ramsey was in a car accident that left him aware of his surroundings, but unable to move or speak. The only way he can communicate is through eye movements. No surprise, then, that he volunteered …
Lucy Sherriff, 15 Nov 2007
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Watching the Earthrise over the moon

From the department of very cool videos come two real corkers. Japan's space agency (JAXA) has released two high definition videos of Earthrise and Earthset, as witnessed by its lunar explorer SELENE, which is now orbiting our largest natural satellite. The mission arrived at the Moon on 18 October, when it was inserted into …
Lucy Sherriff, 15 Nov 2007
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Global warming not to blame for warmer North Pole?

Recent dramatic changes in the Arctic climate - melting sea ice, warmer ocean, green fields in place of icy wilderness, etc - might not all be directly related to global warming. The more clement Arctic climate of recent years could have been triggered by shorter term circulation changes in the oceans and atmosphere. According …
Lucy Sherriff, 15 Nov 2007
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Will bird flu stuff our Happy Christmas?

Will the latest outbreak of bird flu (the nasty, H5N1 strain) in the UK do for Christmas this year what Farepak did last year? Are we all due to sit down to a table of trimmings, without the turkey*? On Sunday, the highly pathogenic strain of the virus was discovered on Redgrave Park farm in Suffolk. The authorities swung into …
Lucy Sherriff, 15 Nov 2007
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Tutankhamun: the boy king comes to London

There has been much fanfare in the press about the unveiling of King Tutankhamun's mummified face. The boy king has recently been installed in a clear, climate controlled chamber, confronting visitors to the Valley of the Kings with his mortality, and his humanity. A statue of Queen Nefertiti, Tutankhamun's stepmother The …
Lucy Sherriff, 14 Nov 2007
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Court date for challenge to 'new' patent rules

A date has been set for a hearing in the High Court to determine the legality of a patent office review of the level of protection it offers to software patents in the UK. On November 19, the High Court will hear four small UK companies argue that the patent office's refusal to accept patent claims covering disks and downloads …
Lucy Sherriff, 13 Nov 2007
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Boffins refine mind-to-prosthetic link

Scientists in the US have developed a technique that could massively improve the control amputees have over their prosthetic limbs. The technique, known as targeted muscle reinnervation (TMR) allows a motorised prosthesis to respond directly to the brain's signals. The research has been led by Dr Todd Kuiken, a physiatrist at …
Lucy Sherriff, 13 Nov 2007
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21st century travel: building your own warp drive

There is to be a gathering of boffins in London next Thursday (15 November), at which the future of intergalactic spaceflight will be discussed. Not content with merely watching Star Trek re-runs, the good folk of the British Interplanetary Society (BIS) have organised a conference to discuss how to make faster-than-light …
Lucy Sherriff, 12 Nov 2007
New York flag

New York State takes on the DOJ over e-voting

The US Department of Justice is going to the courts in a bid to force New York State to buy its preferred voting machines in time for the 2008 election. New York State's Board of Elections has declined to hold an open discussion on how to respond. New York State has so far refused to buy the voting machines approved as part of …
Lucy Sherriff, 12 Nov 2007
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ESO spies warped, star-forming spiral galaxy

The European Southern Observatory has released a new image of nearby spiral galaxy NCG-134, revealing a place very similar to our own galaxy, but with a significant difference: the galaxy's spiral disk is twisted. ESO picture of galaxy NGC-134 ESO picture of galaxy NGC-134. Our own galaxy does have a small warp in it, but the …
Lucy Sherriff, 12 Nov 2007
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Filtering starlight to probe new worlds

European star gazers have been filtering stellar light through the atmospheres of the three inner planets to find out what they are made of. Venus, Earth and Mars (not to scale) Venus Express, the European Space Agency's (ESA) mission to our twin planet, is watching starlight as it passes through Venus' thick swirling …
Lucy Sherriff, 11 Nov 2007
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Christmas Doctor Who exhibition at UK Space Centre

The Tardis is set to land at the National Space Centre in Leicester next week for a Doctor Who exhibition that will run from November 13 to January 6. The Tardis: Oooo-eee-ooooo © BBC 1963, Courtesy of BBC Worldwide Visitors to the exhibition will be able to see characters and props from the series, including the truly …
Lucy Sherriff, 09 Nov 2007
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Black holes blamed for super-charged cosmic rays

You've always suspected it*, and now some properly clever boffins think they've found the data to prove it. Yes, a rare breed of supermassive black hole, otherwise known as active galactic nuclei, are the most likely source of the super-charged cosmic rays that batter our tiny planet from time to time. The particles zip through …
Lucy Sherriff, 09 Nov 2007
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Only the iPhone can save mankind

Identify yourself, on the cheap The cost of the UK government's planned ID card scheme has dropped to a bargain £5.6bn the government's latest six monthly report into the project's progress reveals. The newly slashed figure covers the total cost of providing ID cards and biometric passports to UK and resident Irish citizens, …
Lucy Sherriff, 09 Nov 2007
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Bacteria to blame for global warming?

Researchers from the University of Arizona's Department of Climatology, and the Department of Atmospheric Physics at Gothenburg University have published research they believe will overturn the consensus view that man's activities are causing global warming. They also make some rather astonishing claims that they had been …
Lucy Sherriff, 09 Nov 2007
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Clinton calls for Kyoto successor

Bill Clinton has called on the international community to draw up and sign up to a successor to the Kyoto Protocol to tackle climate change. Speaking at the Greenbuild Conference in Chicago on Wednesday, Clinton was clear on the need for action: "The sale's been made, otherwise Al Gore wouldn't have gotten the Nobel Prize," he …
Lucy Sherriff, 08 Nov 2007
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Aussie boffins translate whale chat

Aussie boffins have been eavesdropping on our underwater cousin the humpback whale, and think they've managed to decode a bit of what the swimming mammals are saying to each other. According to Reuters, the researchers have clearly identified the sounds of a mother issuing a warning to her calf, and of a male trying his luck …
Lucy Sherriff, 08 Nov 2007
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UK gov greenlights 450MW wind farm

UK energy minister Malcolm Wicks (who did a brief turn as science minister just before Mr. Blair got his eviction notice from No. 11 stepped down) has given his blessing for a 450MW wind farm to be built off the coast of Cumbria, 14km from Walney Island. Wicks also gave the nod to the overhead connection line that will link a …
Lucy Sherriff, 08 Nov 2007