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greek vs. babylonian triangles

Forget trigonometry, 'cos Babylonians did it better 3,700 years ago – by counting in base 60!

Those of you who can remember trigonometry can feel free to forget it, because ancient Babylonian mathematicians had a better way of doing it – using base 60! That's the conclusion of a new paper, Plimpton 322 is Babylonian exact sexagesimal trigonometry, in the new issue of the journal Historia Mathematica. The “Plimpton 322 …
Simon Sharwood, 25 Aug 2017

Calm down, internet. Elon's Musk-see SpaceX spacesuit is a bit generic

Pic Elon Musk revealed the first official photo of the SpaceX "spacesuit" today on Instagram. "First picture of SpaceX spacesuit," the billionaire breathlessly wrote in his caption. "More in days to follow. Worth noting that this actually works (not a mockup). Already tested to double vacuum pressure. Was incredibly hard to …
Andrew Silver, 23 Aug 2017

Don't throw away those eclipse glasses! Send 'em to South America

On Monday, millions of Americans watched nature's ballet play out across the Sun (excluding those of us in San Francisco, where we were fogged in). Now an appeal is going out for used glasses to be donated to charity. Astronomers Without Borders is asking people who bought proper (not rip-off) eclipse viewers to send them in …
Iain Thomson, 23 Aug 2017

Can North Korean nukes hit US mainland? Maybe. But EMP blast threat is 'highly credible'

Feature When they said a week is a lifetime in politics, they weren't kidding. One moment, President Donald Trump talks of "fire and fury," the likes the world has never seen, in response to an increasingly aggressive North Korea, which is trying to menace the US with nuclear weapons. Then that's shoved to the side by neo-Nazis …
Iain Thomson, 22 Aug 2017
Illustration of diamond rain on Neptune

Uh oh, scientists know how those diamonds got in Uranus, and they're telling everyone!

Researchers from Stanford have shown how the frigid, high-pressure atmospheres of the planets Uranus and Neptune can create a "rain" of diamonds. The team from the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory says it used an optical laser from the Matter In Extreme Conditions instrument to demonstrate how, deep within the gas giants, …
Shaun Nichols, 21 Aug 2017
Voyager mission logo

Voyager antenna operator: 'I was the first human to see images from Neptune'

When Richard Stephenson drives to work, there's a chance that later that day he'll become the first human to see new details of Mars, a moon of Saturn, or the far reaches of the solar system. Again. Stephenson's seen plenty of such firsts because his job as an Operations Supervisor at the Canberra Deep Space Tracking Complex …
Simon Sharwood, 21 Aug 2017
Solar storm - Shutterstock

Ten spacecraft – from Venus Express to Voyager 2 – all tracked same solar flare

On October 14th, 2014, the Sun decided it was time for a coronal mass ejection, the irregular hiccups that see it belch out astounding quantities of magnetised plasma. And after careful analysis, we've now fingerprinted the plasma's passing using no fewer than ten spacecraft. The event and subsequent analysis are detailed in a …
Simon Sharwood, 17 Aug 2017

Space boffins competing for $20m Moon robot X-Prize are told: Be there by March 31 – or bust

The X-Prize Foundation has cut some slack for teams vying to be the first to land a robot on the Moon and scoop millions of dollars as a result. Launched in 2007, the Google-backed Lunar X-Prize contest promises to hand out $20m to the first private company that gets a bot trundling at least 500 metres on the Moon's surface …
Andrew Silver, 17 Aug 2017

How to build your own DIY makeshift levitation machine at home

Engineers at the University of Bristol in the UK have published a rough guide to building a simple levitation chamber that uses sound waves to suspend objects. Performing levitation experiments requires careful laboratory equipment and conditions. But a paper published in the Review of Scientific Instruments this month shows …
Katyanna Quach, 16 Aug 2017
Sydney University's zinc-air battery

Batteries that don't burn at the drop of a Galaxy Note 7? We're listening

Sydney University boffins reckon they've got a handle on how to stop batteries catching fire: quit using lithium ions. Apart from being the cheapest current technology with enough energy density to power your flaming hot Galaxy Note 7, fidget spinner, or laptop, Li-ion batteries' other notable characteristic is volatility. …

A glimpse of life under President Zuckerberg? Facebook CEO's boffins censor awkward Q&A

Money can't buy you love, but it can remove criticism, at least in the hallowed world of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. With the Zuck continuing his Definitely Not Getting Into A Presidential Race tour of the United States, carrying out a bizarre series of secret photo-ops and precision-engineered PR-friendly drop-ins on normal …
Kieren McCarthy, 15 Aug 2017

NASA delivers CREAM-y load to ISS to improve cosmic ray detection

Hitching a ride on SpaceX's 12th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station is NASA's latest tech for studying the origins of cosmic rays, the high-energy particles that bombard Earth from deep space. Victor Hess, an Austrian physicist, is credited with discovering cosmic rays during a balloon flight in …
Andrew Silver, 15 Aug 2017
Waymo self-driving minivan

Waymo fleshes out self-driving car tech with hardware that goes soft at first sign of trouble

Waymo has been granted a patent to deck out its self-driving cars in a material that becomes less rigid when its sensors detect a high chance of collision. Autonomous cars have unresolved safety issues. Although these machines might not suffer from the dangers of fatigue or road rage, they still aren’t completely safe. …
Katyanna Quach, 15 Aug 2017
CERN visualisation of photon interaction

Photon scattering puts a shine on CERN ATLAS boffins' day

Large Hadron Collider boffins in charge of the ATLAS experiment reckon they've seen photons interacting at the quantum level for the first time. This isn't something that happens at everyday energies: if, for example, you shine two beams through each other in a dark room, you'll see two spots on the wall. However, direct …
Cthulhu concept

Antarctica declared world's most volcanic region as 91 new cones found beneath ice

Boffins from the University of Edinburgh's School of GeoSciences have found 91 previously unknown volcanoes beneath the West Antarctic Ice Shelf, a total that suggests it might be the most volcanic region on Earth. In a paper [PDF] titled “A new volcanic province: an inventory of subglacial volcanoes in West Antarctica”, …
Simon Sharwood, 14 Aug 2017

Trapped under ice with no oxygen for months, goldfish turn to booze. And can you blame 'em?

Scientists have discovered how goldfish and their wild ilk survive months of winter in frozen-over lakes of oxygen-free water. The answer is alcohol – the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems. There aren't many vertebrates that can survive without oxygen. However, goldfish, and their wild relatives, the crucian …
Iain Thomson, 12 Aug 2017

Alien 'lava lamp' with dying magnetic field orbited Earth a billion years ago – science

Scientists studying prehistoric lunar rocks have found evidence of a lava-lamp-like dynamo at the heart of our Moon’s metallic core that generated a long-lasting magnetic field. The Moon samples were collected in 1971 by astronauts, David Scott and James Irwin, during NASA’s Apollo 15 space mission. Now, a paper published in …
Katyanna Quach, 11 Aug 2017

Cancel the farewell party. Get back to work. That asteroid isn't going to hit Earth in October

The European Space Agency has confirmed there is no danger of asteroid 2012 TC4 hitting Earth in October, despite what some panicky YouTube videos might tell you. The rock was spotted five years ago when it whizzed past Earth, missing us by 94,800 kilometres (58,900 miles). Last month NASA eggheads reckoned the asteroid may …
Iain Thomson, 10 Aug 2017
China's robot space truck Tianzhou-1 lifts off

NASA short-lists six candidates for future missions

NASA has published a shortlist of six missions its considering for launch from the year 2022. All are part of the space agency's “Explorers Program”, which aims to do heliophysics and astrophysics on modest budgets. The program runs “Medium-Class” missions with a budget cap of US$250m and “Missions of Opportunity” that get …
Simon Sharwood, 10 Aug 2017

We all deserve a break. Pack your bags. Four Earth-like worlds found around nearby Tau Ceti

Scientists have found tantalizing signs that there are four Earth-like planets orbiting Tau Ceti, a Sun-like star just 12 light-years away. And two of those worlds could be home to life. There has been a lot of interest in the possibility of planets around Tau Ceti, since it has a similar mass and composition as our own Sun. …
Katyanna Quach, 10 Aug 2017
Black hole - spaghetti visualisation. Artist's impression.  NASA/JPL-Caltech, CC BY-SA

If we're in a simulation, someone hit it with a hammer, please: Milky Way spews up to 100 MEELLLION black holes

A new study shows that there may be up to 100 million black holes scattered around the dark depths of the Milky Way – a number much higher than previously expected. That figure was calculated by University of California at Irvine physicists, who took a closer look at the gravitational waves detected by the LIGO equipment in …
Katyanna Quach, 09 Aug 2017
osu javascript

Watch this nanochip reprogram cells to fix damaged body tissue

Video Researchers at Ohio State University have developed a nanochip contact patch that can reprogram nearby cells, to help repair damaged or aging organs, blood vessels, or nerve cells. The bio-boffins have successfully used the device, which is about the size of a smartwatch screen, to turn skin cells into vascular cells in a …
Thomas Claburn, 08 Aug 2017
Beam of light

Florida man is world's fastest flasher: Just 53 quintillionths of a sec

Physicists at the University of Central Florida have developed the world's fastest X‑ray pulse, at 53 attoseconds. Blink and you'll really, really miss it. At 53 quintillionths (53 x 10‑18) of a second, the flash is 15 orders of magnitude faster than the blink of an eye. The beam travels less than one-thousandth of the …
Katyanna Quach, 08 Aug 2017

China can't find anyone smart enough to run its whizzbang $180m 1,640ft radio telescope

There aren't many astronomy jobs that pay very well – but the Chinese authorities are offering just that for the director of scientific operation for its new Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope. At 500m (1,640ft) across, FAST became the world's largest filled-aperture radio telescope when construction finished last …
Iain Thomson, 08 Aug 2017
Black hole

Forget Iran and North Korea. Now there's another uranium source

Astronomers have proposed that heavy elements in the universe may have been forged when small, primordial black holes swallowed neutron stars. Boffins widely believe that elements lighter than iron are formed during nuclear fusion reactions in the cores of stars, or during supernova bursts. But to create elements heavier than …
Katyanna Quach, 05 Aug 2017

Particle boffins show off 'cheap', cute little CosI, world's smallest neutrino detector

Boffins have built what could be one of the world's smallest working detectors of elusive neutrino particles. Grad students Bjorn Scholz and Grayson Rich hold neutrino detector CosI during installation. It looks like they are trying to illustrate the concept of a handheld neutrino detector, or maybe mix a martini, but in …
Andrew Silver, 04 Aug 2017
NASA artist’s concept of Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker

Space Duck 2.0 is New Horizons' next destination

The New Horizons probe's next destination, Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69, looks a bit like a duck. That's NASA's best guess after the amazing effort to fly a plane through the space rock's shadow in early July 2017, plus observations from earthly telescopes in Argentina. After examining the results of those observations, NASA …
Simon Sharwood, 04 Aug 2017

Why do you cry when chopping onions? No, it's not crippling anxiety, it's this weird chemical

We’re all familiar with the burning, eye-watering sensation felt when chopping onions, and now we know exactly why. The US National Onion Association estimates that the average American chows through about nine kilograms (20 pounds) of onions every year – that’s a lot of tears. We know that a lachrymatory factor (LF) agent …
Katyanna Quach, 03 Aug 2017

Are you a clean freak? Are you a keen geek? Do you think space is neat?

Here’s a job title you can dazzle people with at boring dinner parties: Planetary Protection Officer. NASA is looking for someone to prevent germs from being exchanged between Earth and the Moons, comets, asteroids, and planets in our Solar System during space missions. “Planetary protection is concerned with the avoidance of …
Katyanna Quach, 03 Aug 2017
NASA image solar wave modes

Sun's core in a real spin, but you wouldn't know just by looking at it

Our Sun's core is rotating four times faster than its surface. That's the conclusion boffins have reached after peering at data from the joint NASA-ESA SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) mission, first launched in 1995 and still turning in the science. What SOHO found is something solar scientists have been trying to …

Cancel your summer trip to nearby Proxima b. No chance of life, room service, say boffins

NASA scientists have dashed hopes that Proxima Centauri b, an Earth-ish-like planet orbiting the closest star to the Sun, could be habitable. Last year, it emerged there was a rocky exoplanet, dubbed Proxima Centauri b, within Proxima Centauri's crucial Goldilocks zone – meaning there was an alien world in the sweet spot …
Katyanna Quach, 02 Aug 2017

Don't make Aug 21 a blind date: Beware crap solar eclipse specs

The American Astronomical Society has warned that knockoff viewing glasses for this month's total solar eclipse will blind people if they wear them while looking up at the spectacle. The total eclipse will plunge parts of America into darkness for a few moments on August 21, and appear as a partial eclipse in UK, Europe, and …
Iain Thomson, 02 Aug 2017

Ohm-em-gee: US nuke plant project goes dark after money meltdown

Energy companies in the US have cancelled plans to build a pair of nuclear power plants – after Toshiba's Westinghouse Electric Company collapsed. SCE&G and Santee Cooper in South Carolina said they will walk away from erecting two new reactors at the VC Summer Nuclear Station near the town of Jenkinsville. Announced in 2008 …
Shaun Nichols, 01 Aug 2017

Sun of a b... Rising solar temp wrecks chances of finding ET in our system

The possibility of alien life on the icy planets and moons in our Solar System could be lower than previously thought, because any water on them will quickly vaporize, according to a new study in Nature Geoscience. Scientists believe that Enceladus, Saturn’s sixth largest moon, and Europa, Jupiter’s smallest Galilean moon, are …
Katyanna Quach, 31 Jul 2017
A still from the Arizona flight

GPS III satellites and ground station projects get even later as costs gently spiral

US defence technology firm Raytheon’s advanced GPS project has encountered yet more cost-inflating delays, according to reports. Raytheon’s Operational Control Network is being built to take advantage of the latest technology updates in GPS III satellites. Amongst other things, the company is “integrating robust cyber …
Gareth Corfield, 31 Jul 2017
2012 TC4 - NASA impression

Scary news: Asteroid may pass Earth by just 6,880km in October

NASA's preparing another round asteroid defence tests, thanks to the October fly-by of a rock that may come within a cosmic whisker of the Earth. Update: The figures below were later revised by scientists. See our followup story, here. The original article continues below. Asteroid 2012 TC4 is said rock, and is between ten …

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