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The Great Brain Scan Scandal: It isn’t just boffins who should be ashamed

Special Report If the fMRI brain-scanning fad is well and truly over, then many fashionable intellectual ideas look like collateral damage, too. What might generously be called the “British intelligentsia” – our chattering classes – fell particularly hard for the promise that “new discoveries in brain science” had revealed a new …

Scientists want you to know how to have sex with a hyper-long dong

An international team of researchers has discovered how beetles with hyper-long penises make the beast insect with two backs. The research was presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Experimental Biology, and shows how sexual selection changes over time. Sexual selection is the main driving force for the range of …
IMage by Vadim Ivanov http://www.shutterstock.com/gallery-771946p1.html

Loose wrists shake chips: Your wrist-job could be a PIN-snitch

Chinese scientists have brewed a way to steal -- with 80 percent accuracy -- automatic teller machine PINs by infecting wearable devices. Five university boffins demonstrated the trick in a laboratory, finding even the slight hand movements a person makes while entering PINs can be captured through infected smart watches. The …
Darren Pauli, 7 Jul 2016
Curiosity selfie as it drills for water

NASA curious about Curiosity's fourth 'safe mode' event

NASA mission scientists are puzzling over why the Mars Curiosity rover entered “safe mode” during the weekend. In safe mode, the rover puts itself on hold: it ceases most activity, keeps itself safe, and follows a sequence to resume communications. The unexplained glitch was announced by NASA here. So far, the status update …
pic from imperial colllege study

Behold the ROBOT RECTUM... medics' relief

Rise of the machines: Spare a thought for the only Rectal Teaching Assistant in the UK who has lost his livelihood to a cold, metal bastard. A bionic booty, comprised of prosthetic buttocks and anus with in-built robotic tech was developed by the white coats at Imperial College London to help doctors and nurses practise …
Polistes dominulus, the paper wasp, sits on a purple flower. Photo by Shutterstock

Paper wasps that lie to their mates get a right kicking, research finds

Cheating is an unforgivable offence for paper wasps and has a direct effect on their hormones, according to new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Paper wasps (polistes dominulus) have elongated bodies that can reach an inch in size. They build their nests by chewing plant and wood …
Mars impact

Space prang of cosmic proportions blamed for giving Mars its moons

Vid A new study suggests the early history of Mars was incredibly violent and the planet's two small moons are the sole surviving remnants of what was once a shimmering halo. Mars has two moons – Phobos and Deimos (from the Greek words for fear and dread respectively) – but they are tiny, misshapen planetoids, just 22 and 13km (14 …
Iain Thomson, 6 Jul 2016
Gaia's camera under construction

BEELION-star dataset to land in September

It's time for astroboffins and enthusiasts to start clearing space on their hard drives: the European Space Agency has scheduled its first Gaia mission data drop for September 14, 2016. The ESA says data in the release will include a billion stars' positions and G magnitude, the product of observations from July 2014 and …

Down to Earth: NASA's kilo-kitty balloon lands after 46 days

NASA's super-pressure balloon project has once again fallen short of its 100-day target, but still managed to set some records on the way. The agency brought down the balloon in Peru over the weekend, citing altitude variations: The decision to conclude the mission came after NASA’s balloon operators noted altitude variations …

By Jove! NASA's Juno prepares to slip into orbit around Jupiter

NASA's Juno spacecraft is set to enter its most critical stage as it attempts to fly into Jupiter’s orbit. At 4:18am BST, NASA’s Juno spacecraft will begin its orbital insertion burn, a move that will decelerate its velocity – slow enough to be captured by Jupiter’s gravitational field. The burn will initiate when the …
Sucking nectar, spewing pollen

Humans and bees share the same sociability genes

The genetic pathway toward social behavior for honey bees and mammals is more similar than previously thought, according to a new study published in PLOS Computational Biology titled "Conservation in Mammals of Genes Associated with Aggression-Related Behavioral Phenotypes in Honey Bees." Social animals have complex lives, …

fMRI bugs could upend years of research

A whole pile of “this is how your brain looks like” fMRI-based science has been potentially invalidated because someone finally got around to checking the data. The problem is simple: to get from a high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging scan of the brain to a scientific conclusion, the brain is divided into tiny “voxels”. …
FAST's last panel is lowered into place

Last panel in place, China ready to boot up giant telescope

China's bolted down the last mirror of its Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), put away the hex key, and is about to start trial observations with the instrument. Xinhua has announced the last of its 4,450 panels was hoisted into place over the weekend, meaning it's time for the Chinese astroboffins to …
Artist's view of a binary black hole. Pic credit: NASA, ESA and G Bacon (STScI)

BAM! Astroboffins now have a second way of picking up black holes' collision super kicks

Gravitational waves released from black hole “super kicks” may soon be detectable, according to new research published in Physical Review Letters. Einstein realised that gravitational waves were a product of his theory of General Relativity, which found that spacetime behaved like a fabric. When objects with mass – such as …

Blighty's EU science funding will remain unchanged until new PM triggers Article 50

Science research funding from the European Union to the UK is set to continue until Britain officially terminates its membership of the bloc by triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. The referendum split the nation in half; the leave campaign narrowly won the plebiscite with 51.9 per cent of the vote, leaving 48.1 per …
Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

We'll smash probe into comet 300 million miles away for kicks, er, sorry, ... for science

The European Space Agency (ESA) has set the date for the Rosetta probe's deathday and says that on September 30 the spacecraft will crash into the comet it has been orbiting for nearly two years. With Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko more than 300 million miles from Earth and heading out toward Jupiter, the spacecraft's solar …
Iain Thomson, 1 Jul 2016

Boffins boggle, baffled by blobs deep inside the Earth

Scientists have revealed new data about two giant blobs at the edge of the Earth's core, larger than continents and possibly older than any rock on the planet. Unlocking the mystery of the blobs, known as thermochemical piles, could help reveal clue about the Earth's formation, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes. A team of …
Darren Pauli, 1 Jul 2016

Jupiter's throwing a firework party for Juno – and Hubble's peeking in

The Hubble Space Telescope has captured new images of Jupiter’s glowing aurora swirling around one of the planet’s poles, as part of a wider observation programme of the gas giant. NASA’s Juno spacecraft is expected to descend into Jupiter on 5 July at 0418 BST, when Mission Juno will commence. The trip to Jupiter is part of a …
Katyanna Quach, 30 Jun 2016

Cosmo study: Middle-aged galaxies are rarer than you'd think

Physicists have created a novel simulation which allows users to watch how the colour of a galaxy changes over time as it evolves. The results will be presented later today at the Royal Astronomical Society National Astronomy Meeting 2016, and are based on a preliminary paper led by researchers at Durham University. The …
Katyanna Quach, 30 Jun 2016
NASA image of the covert black hole

Mystery black hole hides by curbing its appetite

A well-known radio source has turned out not to be the galaxy it's been classified as for 20 years, but a surprisingly quiet black hole. The discovery is causing a bit of buzz among astrophysicists because it suggests there could be thousands or millions more “covert” black holes out there waiting to be discovered. It took …

Hubble spies rare cosmic tadpole galaxy

The Hubble telescope has captured images of a rare tadpole galaxy glittering with bursts of star formation, swimming in the black pond of space. In a collaboration between NASA and the European Space Agency, the telescope was used to take high-resolution images of cosmic objects across a range of wavelengths. Hubble has taken …
Katyanna Quach, 29 Jun 2016
money_987_648

PAC slams UK.gov for lack of evidence-based science investments

The Public Accounts Committee has advised the UK government to take a more evidence-based approach when deciding spending on science projects, according to a report published today. The report comes at a time when the future of science funding hangs in the balance after the UK voted to leave the European Union. The EU gives …
Katyanna Quach, 29 Jun 2016
Alpha

You can be my wingman any time! RaspBerry Pi AI waxes Air Force top gun's tail in dogfights

Today's generation of fighter pilots could be the last of their breed, thanks to an AI system dubbed ALPHA that's proving unkillable in air combat. The US Air Force has just completed dogfighting trials in a simulator, pitching the software against retired Air Force Colonel Gene Lee. The AI – which ran on a $35 RaspberryPi …
Iain Thomson, 28 Jun 2016
his low-angle self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the site from which it reached down to drill into a rock target called "Buckskin." The MAHLI camera on Curiosity's robotic arm took multiple images on Aug. 5, 2015, that were stitched together into this selfie. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The best way to find oxygen on Mars? Friggin LASERS, of course

A chemical camera sitting atop Curiosity, the Mars rover, has spotted signs that the Red Planet may have once had oxygen in its atmosphere, fuelling further speculation that it was once Earth-like. Today, Mars is a barren wasteland. Its surface is dry and caked in rust-coloured iron oxide dust particles – a stark difference …
Katyanna Quach, 28 Jun 2016
ianatlas_robot_648

Sharing your work cubicle with robots may not be such a bad thing

Keep calm and carry on; artificial intelligence will not take all our jobs and achieve world domination, according to a report released by Forrester. Prominent figures including Elon Musk, co-chairman of OpenAI, and Professor Stephen Hawking have publicly warned people about how the advent of AI will cause an existential …
Katyanna Quach, 28 Jun 2016

Big Pharma's trying to kill us, says man with literally millions to lose

Despite having lost its biggest customer, being forced to invalidate thousands of test results, being placed under investigation by the US government for fraud, facing sanctions, having had a testing facility shut down, and having had its CEO's worth cut from $4.5bn to $0, "nothing's gone wrong with Theranos." At least that's …
Kieren McCarthy, 27 Jun 2016

Let's grow a baby universe in a supercomputer, watch black holes collide

Physicists have created simulations that predict the rate at which gravitational waves from the collision of monstrous supermassive black holes may be detected. The results are due to be announced later today at the Royal Astronomical Society's National Astronomy Meeting. In a monumental discovery, gravitational waves were …
Katyanna Quach, 27 Jun 2016

Beautiful model to explain the universe to physicists

An international team of cosmologists has made the first step towards creating the most accurate ever model of the universe by simulating Einstein’s field equations, according to recent research published in Physical Review Letters. Computer simulations are vital in cosmology and allow scientists to study and test theories …
Katyanna Quach, 27 Jun 2016
Envisat

Down and out in the Middle Kingdom: Beijing is sinking

Beijing is one of the most water-stressed cities in the world, and research carried out using satellite interferometry shows one of the side-effects of that: the city is sinking. Not by a trivial amount, either: according to this open-access study in the journal Remote Sensing, the eastern part of the city is subsiding by 100 …
Artist's impression of Juno and Jupiter. Pic: NASA

Countdown to Jupiter: Juno just seven days from orbit

Juno is on the seven-day countdown to entering Jovian orbit, and it's going to be a wild ride. On May 31, the probe crossed the boundary between solar gravity and Jupiter's. That also marked the start of manoeuvering towards an orbit that's going to take it within 5,000 km of the planet's cloud tops for 37 flybys. As space …
DARPA

DARPA's 'flying wing' drone inches closer to lift-off

Apparently, DARPA likes what it sees in its TERN project. Earlier this month, it gave contractor Northrop Grumman just under US$18 million to build the second of its Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node aircraft. Part of the significance of this is that the contract notice that went out on June 17 was the first hint the …
Data scientist image via Shutterstock

Brexit government pledge sought to keep EU-backed UK science alive

BREXIT Scientists and politicans have called on the Brexit government to keep funding EU-backed projects at current rates or risk becoming a backwater. Nicola Blackwood, chair of Parliament's Science and Technology Committee, urged the Brexit Government to move quickly to reassure scientists and their collaborators in the EU that the …
Katyanna Quach, 24 Jun 2016
Big Bang

LIGO team may have found dark matter

Scientists think the recent discovery of gravitational waves observed from the collision of two black holes may have also detected signatures of the astrophysics mystery of dark matter. Scientists at Johns Hopkins university behind the September 2015 discovery by Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) wrote …
Darren Pauli, 24 Jun 2016

Objective-C can fly the COOP, says subversive at Microsoft Research

Objective-C programmers should use message authentication codes to protect sensitive objects and data structures, according to research presented to this week's Usenix Annual Technical Conference (ATC). A Microsoft Research staffer, and software researchers from UC Irving in America and folks in Germany focused on a technique …
Bring out yer dead!

Genes take a shot at rebooting after death

In one of the creepiest bits of science Vulture South has ever encountered, a US scientist has identified 1,000 genes that become active after death. Not just immediately post-mortem, either: some of the genes in question, found in zebrafish, remained active four days after the fish died (and in mice, they were active two days …

Physicists build simulator, hope to stand up beautiful Standard Model

Physicists have built a quantum simulator to study the Standard Model of particle physics – a theory concerning the electromagnetic, weak, and strong nuclear interactions, as well as classifying all the subatomic particles known. The simulator includes lasers and four calcium ions, according to new research published in Nature [ …
Katyanna Quach, 23 Jun 2016

Late night smartphone use makes women go blind

Taking your smartphone to bed won’t just leave you tossing and turning, it can actually make you go temporarily blind, a team of London-based doctors have warned. A letter to the New England Journal of Medicine from a London-based team of researchers and medics details two cases of “transient monocular vision loss” the team …
Joe Fay, 23 Jun 2016

US committee green-lights CRISPR-Cas9 human cancer cell trials

A United States advisory committee has green-lighted use of the ground-breaking CRISPR gene-editing technique in human trials. The committee within the US National Institutes of Health approved the use of CRISPR-Cas9 for cancer treatment in which tests will be conducted on immune T cells extracted from melanoma patients. The …
Darren Pauli, 23 Jun 2016
Black hole - spaghetti visualisation. Artist's impression.  NASA/JPL-Caltech, CC BY-SA

Supermassive black hole devours star and becomes X-ray flashlight

Astronomers have identified a sleeping black hole that sprung back to life – after trapping a nearby star to be later consumed – due to the black hole firing X-rays into space, according to research published today in Nature. Black holes have a strong gravitational pull on any nearby objects, and if anything ventures past its …
Katyanna Quach, 22 Jun 2016

Astroboffins find first 'wind nebula' around rare 'magnetar' star

Astronomers have found a “wind nebula” around a rare ultra-magnetic neutron star for the first time. Neutron stars are commonly found as pulsars – incredibly energetic fast spinning neutron stars which release radio, visible light, X-rays and gamma rays. They have strong magnetic fields that are 100 billion to 10 trillion …
Katyanna Quach, 22 Jun 2016

Bees with numberplates will soon be buzzing around London. Why?

Hundreds of bees with special number plates attached to their fuzzy abdomens will be released from the rooftops of Queen Mary University of London later today. The bumblebees are from bee colonies raised at the university and are part of a wider effort to step up conservation efforts in the London Pollinator Project. The …
Katyanna Quach, 21 Jun 2016
The Chocolate Festival, London

Rejoice, fatties: Giving chocolate electric shocks makes it healthier

Chocolate lovers, today's your lucky day. Physicists have found a way to make the sweet brown stuff healthier by applying an electric field to molten chocolate. Previous attempts to lower the fat content of chocolate, in an effort to make it healthier, have failed, according to research published in the Proceedings of the …
Katyanna Quach, 21 Jun 2016