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Artist's concept of the Voyager spacecraft in space.

In space no one can hear you scream, but Voyager 1 can hear A ROAR

Hero space probe Voyager 1 has sent home what NASA is calling a “sound” from the cosmos. The venerable spacecraft – now 19,093,090,914km from Earth at the time of writing and moving further away at a rate of about 15km a second – recorded the “noise” in March. That was when a pressure wave caused by a coronal mass from the Sun …

Would it be BAD if the Amazon rainforest was all FARMS? Well it WAS, once

It's generally assumed that it would mean a disaster for the planet if the rainforests of the Amazon were to be replaced with farmland. But it turns out that, actually, much of the area was indeed farmland just a few thousand years ago. We learn this from new research just published in the august Proceedings of the National …
Lewis Page, 8 Jul 2014

Reg reader fires up Pi-powered anti-cat garden sprinkler system

Vid It's a tip of the hat today to Reg reader Joshua Thumim for putting the humble Raspberry Pi into the service of humanity with a simple but effective feline repellent system. Joshua explained: For the last few years, pretty much every time I (or my two small kids) wanted to use the garden I'd first have to remove 3-5 cat …
Lester Haines, 8 Jul 2014
Artist's impression of world's largest flying bird, <i>Pelagornis sandersi</i>

'BIGGEST BIRD EVER': 21-foot ripsaw-beaked flying HORROR

Pic Boffins have identified the fossil remnants of a vast creature that had a jagged-edged ripper beak, and appears to have had the largest wingspan of any bird ever. Artist's impression of world's largest flying bird, Pelagornis sandersi Artist's impression of world's largest flying bird, Pelagornis sandersi. Credit: Liz Bradford …
Contraceptive pill

Wireless-controlled contraception implant is coming, says MIT

MIT's decade-plus pitch to embed microchip-based drug-dispensaries in humans has been re-framed as a microprocessor-based, wireless-controlled, fully Internet-of-Things-compliant, implantable contraceptive. Since 1999, MIT's Robert Langer et al have been pitching the idea of using microchips to deliver medicines. The idea, way …

Boffins urge European Commission to reboot electric brain project

More than four hundred scientists have signed an open letter asking the European Commission to rethink the Human Brain Project (HBP), a €1.19b attempt to build a computer capable of simulating the human brain. The HBP has been pitched as beneficial for neuroscience and computer science. The former discipline gets a whole new …
ESA's "Dropship" drone

European Space Agency demos MARS LANDINGS BY DRONE

The European Space Agency has used an off-the-shelf quadcopter to demonstrate the latest output of its StarTiger rapid-development program: precision guidance and safe delivery of a rover-like vehicle onto a simulated Mars surface. Getting to Mars is one thing, but as the ESA knows only too well, executing a successful landing …
isee3

It's alive! Space hackers fire up zombie Sun probe's engines

An international team of space geeks has successfully fired up the engines of long-defunct NASA satellite ISEE-3. Now the gang says it'll try to kick the bird into an Earth orbit that will enable it to carry on performing the mission it was launched for 36 years ago. ISEE-3 team celebrates Team celebrates the rocket's red …
Iain Thomson, 7 Jul 2014

Alabama quadchopper hits THREE THOUSAND FEET next to AIRPORT

Vid An Alabama UAV enthusiast has been told by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to steer clear of airports after he sent a quadcopter up to 1,100m (3,609 feet) within five miles of Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM). Michael Mayhew posted an impressive video of the DJI Phantom 2 flight on YouTube, and shared …
Lester Haines, 7 Jul 2014

Going up: Fancy a virtual flight to 30km above the PLANET?

Those of you who've always fancied a trip to 30km above the Earth's surface, but have neither the money nor a pair of cojones the size of a plucky Playmonaut's, are directed to this interesting KickStarter campaign in support of a "Virtual Ride to Space". Dr Aaron Knoll - a "lecturer in the field of plasma propulsion" at …
Lester Haines, 7 Jul 2014
The Warlipiri Education and Training Trust

Help us out readers: How would you sniff and store network traffic?

Having successfully averted the XP-ocalypse at the Wirliyatjarrayi Learning Centre in the remote Australian desert community of Willowra, Vulture South's operatives felt pleased with themselves. As regular readers will know, our encounter with the facility, run by the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education, led to …
Artist's concept: NASA's Space Launcher System

Boeing to start work on most powerful rocket ... EVER!

NASA and Boeing have inked a key contract that should see agency's Space Launch System take to the skies in 2017. Under the $US2.8 billion contract, the aerospace giant will be building the core stage of the space giant: the Space Launch System will stand 212 feet (more than 64 metres) tall, and will be powered by a combination …
Communicating using the magnetometer

Phone motion sensors can receive data

Video Boffins from the University of Oulu in Finland and Huazhong University in China have put together a prototype that uses an Android smartphone's magnetometer as a short-range one-way communications channel. The applications for such a system are limited, of course: magnetic fields decay very quickly, so the system has a range of …
Namibia's HESS-II radio telescope

HESS-II scope spots its first pulsar

Namibia's HESS-II telescope has shown off two-years' worth of software upgrades, identifying gamma rays at 30 GeV emanating from the Vela pulsar. Vela is a well-known object, having been associated with the supernova remnant of the same name in 1968, and is visible in the radio, optical, X-ray and gamma spectra. HESS-II's …
The Pi in the Sky board mounted atop the Pi in the Vulture 2

Vulture 2 fills beak with Pi in the Sky

It's all go at the front end of our magnificent Vulture 2 , and following the recent taming of the spaceplane's cantankerous canards, we've now mounted a hot-off-the-press Raspberry Pi in the Sky - the dedicated telemetry board for the Raspberry Pi. Fans of our Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator (LOHAN) project will know that …
Lester Haines, 4 Jul 2014

Booze in SPAAAACE! Brit rocket boffin preps bold stratobeer mission

A British rocket scientist with a sideline in High Altitude Ballooning (HAB) tomfoolery will tomorrow push the envelope of space endeavour by attempting to send a pint of London Pride bitter into the stratosphere. When he's not boffining it up down at European Astrotech, Chris Smith can be found propping up the bar of his local …
Lester Haines, 4 Jul 2014
Artist's conception showing the inner four planets of the Gliese 581 system. GJ 581g, potentially habitable, is in the foreground. Credit: Lynette Cook/NSF

ANGRY ALIENS hit by BEBO SPAMGASM probably don't exist

The world is breathing a collective sigh of relief today as interstellar war with aliens from the well-known prospective "Goldilocks" worlds orbiting the star Gliese 581 has been averted – because the planets don't actually exist. Youtube video of the planets orbiting Gliese 581 In the heady early days of the search for planets …

Japan makes Prius palatable with road map to hydrogen cars

Japan has outlined a 25-year roadmap to get hydrogen-powered cars onto its roads, hydrogen-powered machinery into its factories and fuel cells into millions of homes. The nation's Ministry, for Economy Trade and Industry, recently outlined the plan, which has three phases. In the first, the nation aims to commercialise a …
Researchers found that Titan's ice shell, which overlies a very salty ocean, varies in thickness around the moon, suggesting the crust is in the process of becoming rigid.

LIFE on Titan: If there's one thing aliens HATE, it's a SALTY BALL

Astro-boffins have come up with new and compelling evidence that the ocean buried inside Saturn’s largest moon Titan is probably as salty as Earth’s Dead Sea, sadly making it an unlikely location for alien life. Researchers found that Titan's ice shell, which overlies a very salty ocean, varies in thickness around the moon, …
The canards bolted to the Vulture 2, with Playmonaut in his seat

Experts suspiciously eye LOHAN's cantankerous canards

As ever, we're grateful for our reader experts' feedback on the Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator (LOHAN) mission, and today we have a round-up of your comments on the Vulture 2 spaceplane's cantankerous canards. As we reported last month, the aircraft's forewings have finally been tamed, and here they are attached to the …
Lester Haines, 3 Jul 2014
qubit

Boffins cage qubits inside superconducting silicon

Boffins at the University of Maryland's Joint Quantum Institute think they're on the verge of creating qubits (quantum bits) that could be fabricated using technologies close to today's silicon techniques. The JQI group wants to create a blend of superconductor-style qubits and semiconductor qubits: superconducting wires and …
The Tharsis payload at 30km

Brit SPACE HEDGEHOG team flies student Mars payload

We're pleased to report that the team behind the 2013 space hedgehog drama - which saw a knitted mascot dramatically go awol over Blighty - has finally got a cluster of student experiments in the air without mishap. Last March, CASSiE (Cosmic Ambassador for Space Science and Engineering) accompanied 70 miniprojects packed into …
Lester Haines, 2 Jul 2014
Encapsulation of OCO-2 ahead of launch

NASA: Satellite which will END man-made CO2 debate in orbit at last

Updated NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2 (OCO-2) not only managed to lift off today, it also achieved successful separation from its booster stack and got into orbit. Youtube Video The satellite – which will study the absorption of sunlight by carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere – is the third attempt to get a CO2-measuring craft …
Jeffrey Meldrum

Like frozen burgers, 'Bigfoot' DNA samples have a touch of horse

Oxford boffin Professor Bryan Sykes' quest to prove the existence of Bigfoot by DNA testing supposed samples of the mythical beasts' fur and flesh has come up with dogs, bears and horses, but no Sasquatches, Yetis or Abominable Snowmen. In a study soon to be published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Sykes and colleagues …
NIST's one-way photonic metamaterial

NIST shows off one-way photon-passing metamaterial

If photonics is ever to displace or supplement electronics in microprocessors, the operations we perform on electrons need to be replicated on photons. A group at NIST is the latest to demonstrate a photonic diode – a device that passes light in one direction only, similarly to how diodes pass electrons in one direction only. …
Encapsulation of OCO-2 ahead of launch

NASA aborts third attempt at finally settling man-made CO2 debate

NASA's third attempt to bring some much-desired clarity to the debate over human-produced carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been postponed today after two previous rocket liftoffs ended in disaster. The space agency’s last effort to measure the CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere was the Glory satellite in 2011, which crashed into the …
Rosetta

Comet-chasing Rosetta spies SWEATY prey

The European Space Agency's (ESA) Rosetta comet-chaser has clocked 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko "releasing the equivalent of two small glasses of water into space every second" - enough to " fill an Olympic-size swimming pool in about 100 days". Graphic showing rate of water vapour outgassing from the comet It's going to take a …
Lester Haines, 1 Jul 2014
The LDSD's rocket motor fires. Pic: NASA

NASA flying saucer vids show fire in the sky

NASA has released some entertaining short video clips from last Saturday's test of the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), showing how the future Mars payload delivery tech flight featured a mighty thruster, some hot airbag action and a while lot of a-whoopin' and a-hollerin'. The LDSD launched below an enormous helium- …
Lester Haines, 1 Jul 2014
Artist's illustration of Supernova 1987A

Speed of light slower than we thought? Probably not

With the simple headline “Einstein was wrong”, yet another piece of questionable physics has garnered world attention. It starts with this kind of canned statement, which originated at Phys.org and apparently arose from this uncritical write-up at the Medium-hosted Physics at Arxiv blog. To quote Physics at Arxiv, “James …
cassini

SPACE: The FINAL FRONTIER. These are the TEN-YEAR images of star probe Cassini

NASA is chuffed to be celebrating the 10th anniversary of the splendid Cassini spacecraft's arrival in orbit around mighty Saturn, the ringed gas colossus of the outer solar system. Cassini left Earth on October 15th, 1997 and visited Jupiter in 2000. On July 1st, 2004, it surrendered to Saturn's gravity. Cassini image of …
Cambridge's superconducting magnet levitating

Cambridge's tiny superconducting magnet breaks strength record

Boffins at the University of Cambridge say they've packed the equivalent of three tonnes of magnetic force into a superconducting material roughly the size of a golf ball. In what they call a “trapped field” experiment, the university says its researchers managed to cram a 17.6 Tesla magnetic field into the brittle “high …
Super Earth

SUPER EARTH possibly home to life FOUND in our 'solar backyard'

A team led by Australian astronomers has discovered a huge planet relatively close to Earth that resides in the so-called Goldilocks zone, where conditions are right for liquid water to exist on the surface. GJ 832 c has a mass about five times that of Earth and orbits a red dwarf star every 16 days. The newly discovered planet …
Iain Thomson, 1 Jul 2014

Shrew'd boffins spot TINY ELEPHANT species

Take a look at this critter. No, it's not a mouse, it's not a rodent at all ... This creature is more closely related to an elephant than a shrew. Photo of the mouse Boffins from California Academy of Sciences have found a new, round-eared species of elephant shrew, which are known colloquially as a sengi. The newly …
Jasper Hamill, 30 Jun 2014
Angry-looking cat. Pic by  Guyon Morée from Beverwijk, Netherlands. licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

True fact: Your CAT wees ... like a racehorse

Racehorses have long been noted for the prodigious length of their - wait for it - toilet breaks. Yet boffins have claimed that all animals actually wee for the same amount of time, demolishing equines' much-vaunted status as the greatest urinators on Planet Earth. Researchers measured dozens of species to find that all animals …
Team Register, 30 Jun 2014
India's PLSV-C23 rocket on launch pad

Indian rocket set to sling five satellites

LIVE VID India will today attempt to launch several satellites that will include Earth imaging and microsatellite payloads. The nation's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PLSV) specialises in hoisting satellites into sun-synchronous polar orbits, with 25 successful launches recorded by April 2014. Perhaps its highest-profile launch in …
The LDSD at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Pic: NASA/JPL

NASA pulls FLYING SAUCER out of Pacific ocean

Pics NASA has successfully test-flown its “flying saucer” – the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) – after weather conditions permitted the trial on Saturday. The LDSD is a concept lander design for future flights to Mars. The craft works by inflating a “Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator” (SIAD), which NASA …
Team Register, 29 Jun 2014

Physicist proposes 1,000-foot state-sized walls to stop tornadoes

Do you fear extreme weather events as climate change increasingly roils our atmosphere? Chill, Cassandra; a US physicist has a plan for preventing devastating tornadoes in the American midwest: build a series of Brobdingnagian 300-metre-high walls to enclose Tornado Alley. Tornado Alley map Fear not, Reg readers, San …
Rik Myslewski, 26 Jun 2014
Our intrepid party playmonaut on a sofa, surrounded by blondes

LOHAN laid bare in intimate interview

Vid podcast Fans of our Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator (LOHAN) project might enjoy an interview I did earlier this week with Christiaan van Vollenstee of DIY Drones. The chat, beamed live from the SPB's mountaintop HQ on Wednesday, features discussion of various aspects of our audacious ballocket mission and a particularly fine pair …
Lester Haines, 26 Jun 2014
Particle jets belching from the supermassive black hole at the centre of Centaurus A. Credit: ESO/WFI (visible); MPIfR/ESO/APEX/A.Weiss et al. (microwave); NASA/CXC/CfA/R.Kraft et al. (X-ray)

Black hole three-way: Supermassive trio are 'rippling' space

Boffins have found three supermassive black holes orbiting each other at the heart of a galaxy – and the trio could be rippling the very fabric of space and time. Particle jets belching from the supermassive black hole at the centre of Centaurus A. Credit: ESO/WFI (visible); MPIfR/ESO/APEX/A.Weiss et al. (microwave); NASA/CXC/ …
Perseus galactic cluster

'Sterile neutrinos' re-ignite 'we found dark-stuff' debate

Astro-physicists remain cautiously (around media) excited (among themselves) about an unexpected X-ray signal discovered in a survey of galactic clusters. Having first put their findings in the public sphere in March, as reported by The Register at the time, the work has now passed peer review to hit the presses in the …

Drone-assisted Swiss construct virtual 3D castle

Those readers with a penchant for castles but a disinclination to visit Switzerland can enjoy a virtual shufti Château de Chillon, thanks to UAV image processing software outfit Pix4D. A view of the virtual 3D Chillon Castle In half a day, the company snapped "6,200 aerial and terrestrial images using DJI Phantom 2 Vision, …
Lester Haines, 25 Jun 2014
First text

Study of Brit students finds TXTING doesn't ruin your writing

Avid texters and their parents and teachers can relax after a study found that the use of wacky text-speak syntax doesn't appear to spill over into writing performed at school or work. The study, Exploring the longitudinal relationships between the use of grammar in text messaging and performance on grammatical tasks, rounded up …
Simon Sharwood, 25 Jun 2014