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Skyfire

CubeSat Moon mission to test new Ion Drive

NASA and Lockheed Martin have finalised the contract for an upcoming CubeSat mission called SkyFire. The contractor was first named back in February; with the deal done, construction kicks off for the six-unit box that will, if all goes well, accompany the Orion EM-1 (exploration mission 1) to the moon in 2018. During its …
Mars impact

Mars' 'little green men' buried alive by merciless meteorites – new theory

Scientists hoping to find signs of Martian life on the surface of the Red Planet may not be in luck. Any evidence of life could have been destroyed in a meteor impact, according to research published in Scientific Reports, an online open access scientific mega journal published by the Nature Publishing Group. Samples analyzed …

Billion-tonne IceCube: Sterile neutrino does not exist

Physicists are almost certain that the sterile neutrino does not exist after failing to find any sign of the ghostly particle at the IceCube Neutrino Observatory in the South Pole. Results published today in Physical Review Letters show that scientists have concluded sterile neutrinos do not exist with 99 per cent certainty. …
The Yutu lunar rover

China's moon rover dies of extreme old age, after two-and-a-half years

China never fails in its high-profile scientific endeavours, so news that its Yutu lunar rover has stopped functioning is being spun as a triumph for its space program. Yutu – aka Jade Rabbit – landed on Luna in December 2013 but by January 2014 was reported DOA. By February 2014 the vehicle was revived, but had become …

Email proves UK boffins axed from EU research in Brexit aftermath

Following anecdotes of British scientists being axed from EU-funded projects, one academic has revealed actual evidence of UK boffins being dumped from Euro research efforts in the Brexit aftermath. Paul Crowther, interim head of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Sheffield, today leaked an email confirming colleagues …
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Break out the Elder Scrolls: Skyrmion characters seek storage possibilities

Durham University quantum physicists have been funded to run a Skyrmion Project involving other British universities, which, among other aims, could mean less electricity was needed to power the world. Skyrmions, predicted by physicist Tony Skyrme in 1962, are nanoscale swirling, whirlpool-like patterns in a magnetic field. …
Chris Mellor, 5 Aug 2016
Kirigami, concertina style Photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/popupology/  licensed under https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/

You know what would really make your metamaterial pop? 6th century Japan tech

Engineers at the University of Bristol have applied the traditional Japanese art of Kirigami - where paper is folded and cut to construct intricate models - to create a new shape-changing metamaterial. The results have been published today in Nature Scientific Reports. Metamaterials are artificial composite materials that …
Moon Express Logo

Private moonshot gets the green light from US authorities

The United States' Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has cleared private moon-shot aspirant Moon Express for a 2017 lift-off. Moon Express says the approval makes it the first private company to venture beyond Earth orbit. It's not entirely right: in 1997 a communications satellite called AsiaSat 3 missed its intended …
Data scientist image via Shutterstock

Mad-tech labcoat-sporters DARPA pit infosec AI against itself

The US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, DARPA, will host the final round of the world’s first AI hacking tournament in Las Vegas today, where seven teams of competitors will take their custom-built autonomous cyber reasoning systems into battle. Prestige and technological achievement in the field of AI cyber security …
Airbus' Perlan glider

Perlan 2: The glider that will slip the surly bonds of Earth – and touch the edge of space

Euro airliner firm Airbus is sponsoring a glider capable of soaring to greater altitudes than the famous SR-71 Blackbird spy aircraft. The Perlan 2 project aims to get a conventional sailplane up to altitudes of 90,000 feet, surpassing the SR-71's declared service ceiling of 85,000ft. Sponsored by Airbus, the Perlan 2 glider …

Bee queens are Notch-blocking their minions, say boffins

Scientists have identified a molecular mechanism that explains how queen bees stop worker bees from laying eggs in order to keep bee society from entering the Apocalypse. Bees are eusocial animals. The different types of bees in a nest can be identified by distinct jobs each bee must perform. Queen bees are in charge of …

Cognitive computing: IBM uses phase-change material to model your brain's neurons

IBM scientists claimed – for the first time – to have created artificial spiking neurons using a phase-change material, opening up the possibilities of building a neural network that could be used for AI. The brain is the biggest inspiration for researchers working in cognitive computing: the exact mechanisms that describe how …
NASA image of Io

Jovian moon Io loses its atmosphere every day

If you've ever resented crunching frost underfoot on a cold morning, spare a thought for Jupiter's moon Io: when it's in eclipse, the frost on the ground is a big chunk of its atmosphere. That's the conclusion of research that looked at Io's atmosphere: when it passes behind Jupiter, Io cools down from a balmy -235°F (-148°C) …

Don't want to vote for Clinton or Trump? How about this woman who says Wi-Fi melts kids' brains?

According to a recent poll, just 10 per cent of Americans are excited about voting for either of the two political parties' presidential candidates in November. As a result, serious attention is being paid to other candidates. And in this case, that is Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and Jill Stein of the Green Party. …

'The box' Bones uses to fix any ailment on the Enterprise? Yup, it's real

Researchers at MIT's electronics division have developed a small mobile medical laboratory that could help bring vaccines to remote impoverished areas, battlefields, and space. The reactor is a shoebox-sized biopharmaceutical station that could drop the cost of producing vaccines and diabetes treatments, delivering treatments …
Darren Pauli, 2 Aug 2016
Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo

Virgin Galactic wins US operator's licence for SpaceShipTwo

Virgin Galactic has won an operator's licence for its re-usable low-orbit vehicle, SpaceShipTwo, from the United States Federal Aviation Administration. As described here, the licence permits holders “... to conduct launches or reentries from one launch or reentry site within a range of operational parameters of launch or …
Twisted light image - University of Rochester

Boffins shrink light-twister to silicon scale, multiply bandwidth 10x

We've known for some time that the orbital angular momentum (OAM) of light (colloquially known as “twisted light”) can be modulated to carry information, but until now, it's only been demonstrated on large-scale laboratory lasers. That's changed with work from the State University of New York at Buffalo and the Polytechnic …

Google and GlaxoSmithKline fling £540m at bioelectronic meds firm

Google and drug giant GlaxoSmithKline are spending £540m on a new joint venture, Galvani Bioelectronics, in a bid to develop and commercialise bioelectronic medicine. The partnership between Verily Life Sciences, previously known as Google Life Sciences, and GSK, will boost the British pharmaceutical giant’s efforts in …

Dark scientists' LUX-ZEPLIN doubles down on WIMP hunt

Scientists working on the Large Underground Xenon experiment recently announced they had found no signal of dark matter. But although the results were not quite what they hoped for, it has left them feeling even more determined to hunt down the universe’s most mysterious particle. A second phase of the experiment, known as LUX …
Juno's planned orbits. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Juno turns around and heads off to graze Jupiter's clouds

The Juno is on its way back to Jupiter after successfully reaching 'apojove', the high point of its first orbit of the gas giant. And now the craft is heading for its closest encounter with Jupiter. Juno's mission plan called for it to enter the planet's gravitational sphere of influence and slow down by making two “capture …

Giant Musk-stick test-firing proves a rocket can rise twice

Vid A SpaceX video posted late last week is as boring as it gets: the Falcon 9 rocket doesn't even lift off. It is, however, special for this: it's the first time a rocket's first stage has been fuelled up and fired* after it's been to space. Youtube Video The nine Merlin engines were dosed up with kerosene and given their full …
 Schiaparelli separating from Trace Gas Orbiter. Pic: ESA–D. Ducros

ESA's ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter blasts itself closer to the Red Planet

The European Space Agency’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter has successfully completed its engine burn and is on track to enter orbit around Mars on 19 October. The engine burn has been dubbed “deep-space manoeuvre 1” and is one of the most critical stages in the first mission of the ExoMars programme. A large amount of thrust is …
Katyanna Quach, 28 Jul 2016
Barton aqueduct mid swing, photo Alun Taylor

Avoiding Liverpool was the aim: All aboard the world's ONLY moving aqueduct

Geek's Guide to Britain There are several fine examples of Victorian engineering still working in Blighty. Tower Bridge in London is one of my personal favourites. I was surprised to discover that another was on my doorstep. Well, 4.34km (2.7 miles) from my doorstep to be more accurate. The Grade II-listed Barton Swing Aqueduct in Salford was built …
Alun Taylor, 28 Jul 2016

NASA peers through its SpeX: Aha! Jupiter's globe-warming hotspot

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot may be responsible for stirring an atmospheric hotspot into a frenzy, causing it to be hundreds of degrees warmer than anywhere else on the planet. Researchers from Boston University and the University of Leicester have published new evidence in Nature which shows Jupiter’s atmosphere may be driven by …
Katyanna Quach, 27 Jul 2016
inspector clouseau

Gullible Essex Police are now using junk science lie detectors

Police in Essex, UK, are using polygraph tests on convicted criminals – in its own words, “to help manage the risk posed by convicted sex offenders.” A polygraph, colloquially known as a lie-detector test, measures the physiological responses of subjects when interrogated. The technology was invented in 1921, by John Larson, …
Sun

NASA puts lenses through a different drill to stare at the Sun

NASA Goddard boffins and engineers have taken inspiration from the Fresnel lens to craft a “photon sieve” they hope will help them observe the processes that heat the sun's corona. The diffraction that gives a Fresnel lamp its soft edges is also handy for gathering light. NASA's post here explains that after passing through …
Solar Impulse 2

Captain Piccard's planet-orbiting solar aircraft in warped drive drama

An airplane powered by nothing more than the Sun's rays has completed its 42,000-km (26,098-mile) journey around the world after landing in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday. The Solar Impulse 2, piloted by Bertrand Piccard for its final leg, made the trip in 17 legs, flying around the Northern hemisphere with stops in nine countries. Its …
Iain Thomson, 27 Jul 2016
Dolly sheep. Photo courtesy  University of Nottingham

Dolly the sheep clones have aged well, say scientists

Scientists working on a long-term study of the world’s first cloned animal, Dolly the sheep, have reported that cloned sheep age normally in a paper published today in Nature Communications. Dolly’s life started in the laboratory. Scientists replaced the nucleus of an egg cell with a nucleus taken from a somatic cell to …
Katyanna Quach, 26 Jul 2016
Ashlee Vance, Elon Musk: How the Billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla is shaping our Future

Fear not, humanity – Saint Elon has finished part two of his world-saving 'master plan'

Solar-panel roofs on cars, compact SUVs, and high-passenger-density urban transport are all part of Elon Musk's self-titled "master plan, part deux" for the world. The SpaceX and Tesla Motors supremo has just finished writing the second part of his blueprint for the future of humanity. The ultimate goal is sustainability, Musk …
Katyanna Quach, 21 Jul 2016

Nope, we can't find dark matter either, says LUX team

An international team of researchers working on the Large Underground Xenon dark matter experiment announced today that they have failed to detect any dark matter particles. Results from LUX were presented at this year’s Identification of Dark Matter conference after the team completed its final 20-month run of the detector …
Katyanna Quach, 21 Jul 2016

All you need for quantum computing at room temperature is some mothballs

Much of the current research on the development of a quantum computer involves work at very low temperatures. The challenge to make them more practical for everyday use is to make them work at room temperature. The breakthrough here came from the use of some everyday materials, with details published today in Nature …

Google tests its own quantum computer – both qubits of it

A couple of years ago, a quantum physicist suggested to Vulture South that one of the best uses for quantum computers might be to model reality. Now, Google reckons its boffins have done just that. Science wants to model quantum systems because they lie at the heart of reality. For example, chemistry – where Google has chosen …
The first color picture of Mars from Viking 1

40 years ago today the US govt sent a taxpayer-funded robot to invade an alien hostile world

Pics The surviving members of the Viking Mars probe team have been celebrating the 40th anniversary of the first probe to make it down onto the surface of the Red Planet, send back pictures, and perform scientific experiments. The Viking 1 lander hit dirt on Mars on July 20, 1976, 16 days late. The probe had been planned for …
Iain Thomson, 20 Jul 2016
Facebook laser receptor

Raving mad: Glow sticks are secret weapon in Facebook's 2.1Gbps laser internet drones

At Facebook's F8 Developer Conference this year, Mark Zuckerberg revealed more details about his laser-firing drones that will encircle the world and relay Facebook, sorry, the internet to far-flung places, reaching potentially all seven billion of us. The first solar-powered Aquila autonomous drones to do that job have now …
Iain Thomson, 20 Jul 2016

Microbe drives tropical butterfly species to a male-killing frenzy

Spiroplasma, a small helical-shaped microbe, is responsible for bringing out a ‘male-killing’ instinct in African Queen butterflies, according to research published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. A team of entomologists collected African Queens (Danaus chrysippus) - a medium-sized butterfly …
Katyanna Quach, 20 Jul 2016
drawing of live cat and cat skeleton

Schrödinger's cat explained with neutrinos

Physicists have found that neutrinos keep their quantum weirdness over the longest distance that quantum mechanics has been tested to date. Superposition is a fundamental theory in quantum mechanics. The idea that particles can exist simultaneously in many different states was famously compared to a thought experiment devised …
Katyanna Quach, 20 Jul 2016
loud

After Monday's landing, SpaceX wants to do it in triplicate

SpaceX has applied to local authorities for permission to build two new rocket landing pads in Florida ahead of the launch of its Falcon Heavy rocket later this year. The Falcon Heavy consists of three modified Falcon 9 rockets strapped together – a more complex machine that Elon Musk describes as having a "heavy pucker factor …
Iain Thomson, 20 Jul 2016
Kepler

Kepler's K2 mission confirms 104 Earth-like planets

An international team of astronomers has confirmed a treasure trove of new exoplanets spotted by NASA's Kepler spacecraft during its K2 mission. Kepler was launched in 2009 to search for Earth-like planets around Sun-like stars. Scientists describe the region where an exoplanet might be the right distance away from a star to …
Katyanna Quach, 19 Jul 2016
Harvard's vitamin B2 battery

Harvard gives solar batteries performance-enhancing vitamins

Harvard University researchers reckon they can make flow batteries cheaper using an electrolyte based on vitamin B2. Flow batteries function much like lead-acid batteries, with a fluid that reacts with electrodes to store charge. However, the liquid is cycled through an external tank in the charge/discharge cycle. The …
A bottle of burned naphtalene

Oz boffins cook quantum computing out of mothballs

A Sydney University researcher has burned naphthalene to create a material that can hold quantum qubit information at room temperatures. While the world has both quantum storage and quantum gates, albeit at small scales, even performing a simple Boolean AND operation on qubits is best undertaken as close as you can get to 0 …

Boffins unveil 500TB/in2 disk. Yeah, it's made of chlorine. -196˚C, why?

Nano-tech scientists have managed to create the world’s smallest hard disk. The 500TB/inch2 disk can store a kilobyte of memory in a few tiny chlorine atoms, according to new research published in Nature Nanotechnology. Atomic memory is an attractive idea as only a few nanometres of space are needed to store a bit. A team of …
Katyanna Quach, 18 Jul 2016
NASA CAD of Mars 2020 Rover

New Mars rover is GO for 2020 says NASA

All being well, NASA will launch the successor to Curiosity Rover in 2020. And this time the agency hopes to prepare samples for an as-yet-blue-sky manned mission that could one day return them to Earth for analysis. NASA says its Mars Rover 2020 project has passed a “significant milestone” – Key Decision Point (KDP) C – which …