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Old school emissions testing at the EU's Joint Research Centre

Europe to launch legal action against countries over diesel emissions cheating

The European Commission has begun legal action against seven member states over emissions cheating in the "dieselgate" scandal. The Commission is frustrated with how national authorities have handled the issue, which began last year when Volkswagen admitted to emissions 'discrepancies' in engines fitted in 11 million vehicles …
OUT-LAW.COM, 13 Dec 2016

Men! If you want to win at board games this Christmas, turn off the rock music – scientists

Chaps, listen. Are you sick of losing at Monopoly every Christmas? Do you dread the sight of backgammon or the sound of rattling Scrabble tiles? The trick to winning board games could be to avoid listening to rock music, apparently. Scientists at Imperial College London have teamed up with musicians from the Royal College of …
Katyanna Quach, 12 Dec 2016
star

Remember that brightest supernova ever seen? It wasn't one

Last year, astronomers spotted what looked like a massive supernova, 200 times brighter than any seen before. Use of the Hubble and Swift orbital telescopes as well as observatories here on Earth to make a close analysis of the event, dubbed ASASSN-15lh, indicates that the flash in the sky might not have been a supernova at …
Iain Thomson, 12 Dec 2016

ESA to try tank-to-tank fuel switch on sat that wasn't designed to do it

The European Space Agency is planning what it thinks is a world-first transfer of fuel between tanks on an orbiting satellite that wasn't designed to do the job. The agency's venerable XMM-Newton X-ray 'scope has been orbiting Earth since 1999, thanks in part to daily engine burns that keep its orbit stable. While the 'scope …
Simon Sharwood, 12 Dec 2016

Japanese robot space maid will incinerate Earth's dead satellites

Vid Good news: the latest resupply mission to the International Space Station has taken off without exploding or any of that kind of nonsense. Even better news: it is carrying 5.9 metric tons (6.5 US tons) of cargo, including a rather unusual device that boffins believe could be a great tool for dealing with space junk. After the …
Iain Thomson, 9 Dec 2016
John Glenn

RIP John Glenn: First American in orbit – and later, the oldest, too

Obit John Glenn, America's first man into orbit and the oldest person ever to make it into space, has died at the age of 95 after a short illness. Glenn shot to national fame in the early 1960s as part of the Mercury 7 – seven pilots selected by NASA to be the first Americans into space. On February 20, 1962, Glenn and his …
Iain Thomson, 9 Dec 2016
Christopher Lee as Dracula

Latest loon for Trump's cabinet: Young-blood-loving, kidney-market advocate Jim O'Neill

Having chosen a climate-change denier to head the US government's environment agency, an opponent of minimum wage for the Labor Department, a creationist for Education Secretary, a mine-owner for Commerce, and a wrestling exec to oversee small businesses – president-elect Donald Trump is now considering putting a man with very …
Eclipse photo via Shutterstock

Earth days are getting longer – by 1.8 milliseconds per century

We know the Earth’s rotation is slowing, hence leap seconds, but by how much? Now we have a new number: 1.8 milliseconds per century for the last 2,720 years. That's the average figure the solar day has increased by since 720BC according to researchers at the Durham University and the UK’s Nautical Almanac Office. The boffins …
Gavin Clarke, 8 Dec 2016

Patience is SpaceX's latest virtue

SpaceX has delayed its planned December launch until January 2017. Its brief statement is given as an “anomaly update” – an addendum to the rolling blog about investigations into its impressively-large explosion on September 1. That event has since been attributed to how helium was handled during fuelling. The explosion …
Restore-L

NASA spunks $127m on SSL-powered robot to refuel satellites in space

SSL (previously Space Systems/Loral) has won a contract to build a robot capable of refueling satellites in orbit, whether or not they have been designed to get more fuel. There are already scores of satellites in orbit that are useless due to lack of fuel, and NASA wants the ability to refuel future orbital platforms without …
Iain Thomson, 7 Dec 2016

Robotics is coming on leaps and bounds – literally: Bushbaby bot most vertically agile yet

Roboticists from the University of California, Berkeley, have built the “most vertically agile” robot, capable of jumping better than humans. Salto, the pint-sized robot, can jump up to a metre in height in less than a second. It stands for saltatorial locomotion on terrain obstacles, and is modeled on one of nature’s most …
Mail rail Royal Mail courtesy of The British Postal Museum and Archive

Going underground: The Royal Mail's great London train squeeze

Geek's Guide to Britain For the last 13 years, a tiny train tunnel running through the centre of London has remained empty and unused, maintained by just four engineers. But these engineers don’t work for Transport for London or Network Rail – they work for the Royal Mail. The small gauge tunnel, running for 10.46km (6.5 miles) from Paddington to …
Rings around distant planet

Cassini tickles Saturn's rings ahead of final death plunge

The Cassini space probe has begun a series of orbits designed to swing it through the edges of Saturn's ring system. The probe, which has been orbiting the gas giant since 2004, fired a six-second burst of its rocket motor at 0409 PT (1209 UTC) to put it into a swooping orbit 57,000 miles (91,000 kilometers) over the gas giant …
Iain Thomson, 6 Dec 2016
VSS Unity

Beardy Branson's space bird spreads its wings

For the first time in more than two years, a Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo has been unclipped from its carrier. The VSS Unity glided for 10 minutes under its own control, after being released from WhiteKnightTwo, after a previous four “captive carry” test flights. Virgin Galactic says the Saturday flight over the Mojave desert …
bacteria

Take that, creationists: Boffins witness birth of new species in the lab

A common chant from the anti-evolution crowd is that you can't demonstrate speciation – the creation of new species – in action. Now a team of scientists can do just that for anyone with a few weeks to spare. In a paper published in the journal Science at the end of November, Justin Meyer, an assistant professor of biology at …
Iain Thomson, 5 Dec 2016

NASA wants more satellite surveillance. For science. Promise

NASA and the US Geological Survey (USGS) are moving to plug the looming gap in its Earth-observation capability by accelerating the Landsat-9 mission by three years. The decision was revealed last week at the Landsat 9 Ground System Requirements Review (GSRR) in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, at which a NASA/USGS review panel …
Soyuz

Cargo capsule goes AWOL, explodes on its way to Space Station

A Progress capsule filled supplies for the International Space Station today blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome spaceport in Kazakhstan. Now its controllers have admitted the MS‑04/65P mission has been annihilated. The podule was carrying 5,300 pounds (2,404 kilograms) of food, water, propellant, and a spare space suit …
Iain Thomson, 1 Dec 2016

Really weird quantum phenomenon spied lurking near neutron star

Pic A neutron star may have led astronomers to find signs of a strange quantum phenomenon in vacuum space that was predicted more than eighty years ago. In quantum electrodynamics (QED), space isn’t really empty. Virtual particle and antiparticle pairs continually pop up and disappear. In the presence of very strong magnetic …
Chips

Whiffy kitchen after last night's chips? Clear the air with SPACE PLASMA

Fifteen years of plasma experiments on the International Space Station (ISS) could let people enjoy the lusciously unhealthy taste of deep-fried potato chips, without having to smell them first. [What's wrong with you? Why would you want to eat chips without the thrill of anticipation first?] The work being done by German …
CaSSIS Mars

ExoMars probe snaps photos of your next dystopian home world when Earth goes to crap

Video The European Space Agency's ExoMars orbiter has beamed back its first photos and sensor readings of the Red Planet after circling the harsh dust world. The agency's astro-boffins needed some good news: last month, their Schiaparelli Mars lander – which was dropped from the ExoMars craft – smashed onto the Martian surface after …
Iain Thomson, 29 Nov 2016
Soyuz

50 years on, the Soviet-era Soyuz rocket is still our favorite space truck

On 28 November 1966, Soviet engineers cheered as the first Soyuz rocket lifted off from the Motherland and made it into space. 50 years later, the Soyuz family is still delivering the goods. For the past five years, the rockets have been our only means to resupply the International Space Station. Not bad for a rocket design …
Iain Thomson, 29 Nov 2016

ESA: Sorry about Schiaparelli, can we have another €400 mill?

Later this week in Lucerne, Switzerland, the European Space Agency (ESA) will ask its 23 member states' ministers for a €400 million top-up to its ExoMars program. In an audio conference on Friday, director of human spaceflight and robotic exploration David Parker said the cash injection “includes all the technical work needed …

Geo-boffins say 'quake lifted bits of New Zealand by 8 metres, moved at 3km/second

VIDEOS New Zealand's geoscience agency GNS Science has released videos showing the fault lines that ruptured during the recent earthquakes that moved the nation two metres north. The Kaikoura earthquake struck on November 14th, 2016, and caused extensive damage on New Zealand's South Island. Two people died as a result of the …
Simon Sharwood, 27 Nov 2016

San Francisco's sinking luxury Millennium Tower: Tilt spotted FROM SPACE

San Francisco's $350m leaning Millennium Tower is continuing to sink into the ground, European satellites orbiting Earth have confirmed. The 58-story landmark, at 301 Mission Street, is one of the tallest structures in the tech-playground city, overlooking the bay and the metropolis's startup land. The swanky skyscraper, an …
Chris Williams, 25 Nov 2016
Big Bang

Three certainties in life: Death, taxes and the speed of light – wait no, maybe not that last one

Einstein was incorrect about the speed of light being a fixed constant in our universe, a new theory suggests. A team of physicists are backing an idea that the speed of light is not constant and have made a prediction that can be tested. The speed of light is exactly 299,792,458 metres per second, and is a value that is …
Katyanna Quach, 25 Nov 2016
 Schiaparelli separating from Trace Gas Orbiter. Pic: ESA–D. Ducros

'Data saturation' helped to crash the Schiaparelli Mars probe

The European Space Agency (ESA) has released results of its early investigations into the crash of the Schiaparelli Mars probe and it sounds like software may have been a part of the problem. "A large volume of data recovered from the Mars lander shows that the atmospheric entry and associated braking occurred exactly as …
Simon Sharwood, 24 Nov 2016
Weeping astronaut illustration via Shutterstock

Space crap: Flap, zap or strap? $30k from NASA for your pooper scooper

Time is ticking away if you want to enter NASA's competition for the public to suggest an astronaut ablution solution. While the PR team must be delighted with their title of "Space Poop Challenge" the more officious procurement language of the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration is even sweeter: NASA seeks …
An astronaut sits alone on a rocky surface of another planet. Photo by SHutterstock

NASA sets fire to stuff in SPAAACE. On purpose. Because science

VIDEOS NASA's released the videos of its Saffire II experiment, in which the space agency borrowed the Mythbuster's incendiary habits and burned stuff in space. It's all in the name of science, naturally: as we noted on Monday, the agency wants to know how things burn in low gravity, so they can work on better fire control techniques …

LAKE OF frozen WATER THE SIZE OF NEW MEXICO FOUND ON MARS – NASA

Settling on Mars may not be as difficult as first feared. NASA scientists have discovered a huge deposit of water ice just under the surface of the Red Planet. The ice has been found in the Utopia Planitia region of the planet, a large depression in the northern hemisphere formed by a massive impact early in the planet's …
Iain Thomson, 22 Nov 2016

New state of matter discovered by superconductivity gurus

Physicists may be one step closer to cracking the mystery behind high-temperature superconductivity, as they confirm that a new distinct state of matter forms just before a material enters its superconductive state. Superconductors conduct electricity with zero resistance, a desirable property that is severely hindered by the …
Katyanna Quach, 22 Nov 2016
birthday

International Space Station celebrates 18th birthday in true style – by setting trash on fire

On Sunday, the International Space Station turned 18, a birthday many non-US teenagers around the world celebrate with a drunken binge and a colossal hangover. Instead, the station celebrated with a new arrival and by firing up an unusual birthday candle. On November 20, 1998 the very first module of the ISS, renamed Zarya …
Iain Thomson, 21 Nov 2016
SLS cryo propulsion system in Marshall test stand

NASA trying to rein in next-generation super-heavy lifter costs

Poor NASA: it's got a president who doesn't like its climate research and wants it to pay more attention to putting humans on the Moon and Mars – but its launch vehicle for that kind of mission is costing too much. That vehicle is the Space Launch System, a rocket hoped to be capable of one day hauling loads up to 130,000kg …
GEOS-R

Launch set for GOES-R satellite capable of 30-second weather updates

NASA meteorologists have given a 90 per cent chance of good weather for the launch of the revolutionary Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite – R Series (GOES‑R) on Saturday. GOES-R is possibly the most advanced weather satellite ever produced, capable of providing high-definition, multi-spectrum snapshots of …
Iain Thomson, 18 Nov 2016
Pluto

Pluto has massive underground oceans, say astro-boffins

Pluto may contain a colossal underground ocean, say New Horizons mission scientists. Two new Letters in Nature, Reorientation of Sputnik Planitia implies a subsurface ocean on Pluto and Reorientation and faulting of Pluto due to volatile loading within Sputnik Planitia considers the icy heart-shaped “lava lamp” found on the …
Simon Sharwood, 18 Nov 2016

Physicists have built the world's fastest quantum simulator

The world’s fastest quantum simulator models an interaction between a many-body system of more than 40 atoms within one billionth of a second, according to research published on Wednesday. Replicating a many-body system experimentally is a lively area of research, as it gives scientists a way to study quantum mechanical …
Katyanna Quach, 17 Nov 2016

NASA discovers mysterious super-fast electrons whizzing above Earth

Electrons are being whipped to speeds close to the speed of light just outside the Earth’s magnetic field, and scientists aren’t sure why. NASA’s Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS) mission has discovered these extremely fast particles farther from Earth than previously thought possible …
Katyanna Quach, 16 Nov 2016
Mars

Martian 'ice cauldrons' are prime spot to hunt LGMs, say boffins

One of the reasons it's so hard to find life on Mars is that hardly anwyhere we've spotted on the red planet combines liquid water and survivable temperatures. Now a study from the University of Texas (UT) suggests such a place may exist, because it once had enough volcanic activity to produce the right conditions. The …

Quantum traffic jam of atoms could unlock origin of dark energy, physicists claim

It may be possible to crack the mystery of why the universe is expanding at an accelerated rate, if gravity can be measured through a “quantum traffic jam” of ultracold atoms. A paper published in Physical Review Letters [paywalled] proposes a hypothetical experiment that could provide scientists with a new way of measuring …
Katyanna Quach, 15 Nov 2016

Hurrah! Urinals will soon be splash-free

Engineers have developed a new technique that could pave the way for splash-free urinals in the future. When drops of liquid hit a hard surface at a high-speed, the impact distorts the liquid’s structure and it bounces back. The rebound motion of liquid can sometimes be unpleasant or even dangerous, and can certainly result in …
Katyanna Quach, 14 Nov 2016
NASA's exploding star illustration

Boffins find Galaxy making killer radiation, rule out Samsung phone as source

It's not just radio any more: Penn State University boffins have turned up a “fast gamma ray burst” that correlates with a source of a fast radio burst (FRB). The still-mysterious FRBs have excited astro-boffins ever since 2013. In 2015, Australian astronomer Emily Petroff pulled off the first real-time observation of an FRB …
New Zealand flag

CERN boffins see strange ... oh, wait, that's just New Zealand moving 2m north

New Zealand's been hit by two nearly-simultaneous earthquakes that left two people dead, isolated some towns, cut telecommunications links – and rattled the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva. The quake might also inconvenience infosec types visiting the country for one of the Southern Hemisphere's pre-eminent conferences, …
Monkey

2016 in a nutshell: Boffins break monkeys' backs to turn them into tragic shuffling cyborgs

Scientists trying to find a cure for spinal injuries have claimed a notable success. Grégoire Courtine, a neuroscientist with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, has produced a paper describing how his team mapped and recorded the neural activity in monkeys standing and walking on treadmills. The eggheads then crippled …
Iain Thomson, 12 Nov 2016