Science > More stories

Did speeding American manhole cover beat Sputnik into space? Top boffin speaks to El Reg

As any space enthusiast knows, beachball-sized Sputnik was the first manmade object to orbit the Earth after it was launched by the Soviets in October 1957. But it's possible the US managed to put an object into space a few months before that. In 1956, astrophysicist Dr Robert Brownlee was asked by his boss at the Los Alamos …
Iain Thomson, 16 Jul 2015
Pluto surface

Behold: Pluto's huge ICE MOUNTAINS ... and signs of cryovolcanoes?

Pics NASA has revealed the first high-resolution photograph of Pluto's surface, and the first proper picture of its largest moon Charon – and they are frankly very strange indeed. The Pluto snap shows ice mountains 11,000ft tall, and on both pics there are perplexing signs of geological activity – perhaps even cryovolcanoes spewing …
Iain Thomson, 15 Jul 2015
Bacon inhaler

Horrifying MOCK BACON ABOMINATION grown in BUBBLING VATS as ALGAE

There's disturbing and yet possibly uplifting news today on the science beat, depending how much you like eating bacon – and/or things grown in bubbling vats. That's because boffins in Oregon say they have managed to grow a kind of algae or seaweed in bubbling vats and that it is in every way as nice to eat as proper bacon …
Lewis Page, 15 Jul 2015

Did MARS once have OCEANS? Curiosity discovers continental crust

NASA's nuclear-powered Curiosity rover has aimed its ChemCam laser at some unusually light-coloured rocks on Mars and discovered surprising similarities between them and the rocks of Earth's granitic continental crust. The evidence of a "continental crust" on Mars is a huge discovery from the space-tank, now rumbling over the …

Pluto Pic: Is it a DOG? Is it a HEART? Or is it ... is it ... BIGFOOT?

NASA has announced that the New Horizons spacecraft has phoned home after passing behind Pluto. Images and analysis are beaming their way back across the solar system as you read this story. Here at The Reg, meanwhile, we've been gazing at the lovely image of Pluto NASA revealed to the world yesterday. That snap has been …
Darren Pauli, 15 Jul 2015
Pluto

New Horizons: We've got a pretty pic of Pluto. Now let's get our SCIENCE on

Comment With everyone going ape over the dazzling new crisp pictures from NASA's New Horizons probe of the dwarf freezeworld Pluto, there are few voices asking if it was worth sending out a space probe to the far end of the Solar System – but it wasn't always that way. Pluto The eighth dwarf ... Very latest snap of Pluto from New …
Iain Thomson, 14 Jul 2015

Large Hadron SMASHER: Boffins BLOW OPEN the PENTAQUARK's secrets

Pic Physicists at CERN's Large Hadron Collider say they have discovered the pentaquark – a class of subatomic particle never seen before. "The pentaquark is not just any new particle," said LHCb spokesperson Guy Wilkinson. "It represents a way to aggregate quarks, namely the fundamental constituents of ordinary protons and …
Connected headset

Tour de France leader's cycling data may have been hacked by doping critics

Professional cycling outfit Team Sky fears critics of team member and current Tour de France leader Chris Froome may have hacked into its systems and stolen training data. Froome's detractors have previously used power data in alleging the cyclist was using performance-enhancing drugs. The 30-year-old, who has always insisted …
John Leyden, 14 Jul 2015
Thames barrier pier 7, photo: Gavin Clarke

The Great Barrier Relief – Inside London's heavy metal and concrete defence act

Geek's Guide to Britain Last time London flooded was 1953. Three hundred lives were lost, 30,000 evacuated and the damage totalled a considerable £5bn in today’s money. Given how London has expanded since then, the record-breaking wet winter of 2014 would have been worse had it not been for the presence of 51,000 tonnes of metal and 210,000 cubic …
Gavin Clarke, 14 Jul 2015

Cell division: The engine of life – and of CANCER. Now some of its secrets are revealed

We each begin our existence as a single cell, which divides into new cells which divide into new cells. Old tissues are replaced, wounds heal, our ears – not especially useful – keep on growing even once they're quite big enough, thank you*. Cell division is pretty much the miracle of life – and yet we still don't understand …
Lewis Page, 14 Jul 2015
New Horizons spacecraft approaching Pluto

Pluto revealed as KING of the Kuiper belt

As astroboffins prepare themselves for the arrival of data from New Horizons' nearest approach in its Pluto fly-by, the little probe has already revised opinion about how big/small the planet/dwarf planet really is. Pluto won't get to recover its lost status as a planet, but NASA's New Horizons team has confirmed that at 2,370 …
New Horizons spacecraft approaching Pluto

New Horizons mission to Pluto prepares for terrifying silence on Tuesday AM

On Tuesday morning at 0449 PDT (1149 UTC), the New Horizons space probe will make mankind’s first visit to Pluto, and there will be much rejoicing; but we won’t actually know if the mission is a success until much later. At a press conference on Monday the team, some of whom have been working on the project for more than 20 …
Iain Thomson, 13 Jul 2015

Asimov's ghost! Oil and gas rigs could be taken over by robots

The European Space Agency has announced that a robot, building upon its ExoMars Rover, is bidding to win a place on oil and gas production rigs around the world, to work in remote and hazardous environments. Oil and gas giant Total's Autonomous Robot for Gas and Oil Sites (Argos) Challenge is a three-year competition to …
Team Register, 13 Jul 2015
New Horizons flight controllers Sarah Bucior, Katie Bechtold and George Lawrence monitor data confirming that the Pluto-bound spacecraft had exited hibernation. Pic: NASA

PLUTO FLYBY: Here's your IT angle, all you stargazing pedants

Part I NASA's Pluto-skimming podule, New Horizons, is now within a million miles of its freezeworld target - but we won't get the data 'til later. While the spacecraft and the dwarf planet are a mere skip from each other in galactic terms, the flyby is far from settled for NASA's IT staff, who used a well-deserved coffee break to …
A US C-130 Hercules equipped with skis takes off in the Antarctic using JATO. Credit: DoD

Natural geothermal heat under Antarctic ice: 'Surprisingly HIGH'

Geothermal heating from within the Earth's core – as opposed to the possibly warming air or sea – has been measured beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet for the first time ever. And, we are told, it is "surprisingly high." The West Antarctic sheet is the part of the Antarctic ice cap thought to be easiest to melt. Worries …
Lewis Page, 13 Jul 2015
Magnetic fields of sunspots interacting

Mathematician: SUNSPOT DROUGHT will mean mini ICE AGE from 2030

Astronomers working in the years 1645 to 1715 observed many fewer sunspots than they were accustomed to seeing. The lower-than-expected rate of sunspots has since come to be known as the “Maunder Minimum” and a new theory suggests we're about to get another one. So says Professor Valentina Zharkova of Northumbria University, …
Simon Sharwood, 13 Jul 2015
The Pacific sleeper shark spotted by Nat Geo survey

Forget lasers: how about sharks with frikkin' VOLCANOES?

Vid A bunch of volcanologists working near the Solomon Islands has turned up a find that left them “freaking out”: a seldom-seen variety of Pacific sleeper shark just about living in a volcano. The group, working with National Geographic, were studying underwater volcanoes earlier this year when they caught the high-definition …
Chasms, craters, and a dark north polar region are revealed in this image of Pluto’s largest moon Charon taken by New Horizons on July 11, 2015. The annotated version includes a diagram showing Charon’s north pole, equator, and central meridian, with the features highlighted. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

Mighty CHASMS, craters FOUND ON MOON of Pluto

The New Horizons mission has turned its attention to Charon, moon of mysterious dwarf ice-world Pluto, and has found it to be a lot more interesting than had been thought. The probe snapped the image at the top of this story (here for readers on mobile devices) on Saturday 11 July and NASA said it was excited because it …
Simon Sharwood, 13 Jul 2015
Pluto dark spots. Image credit: NASA

WHAT ARE the 'WEIRD' SPOTS seen on far-flung PLUTO?

Astroboffins remain baffled by four mysterious dark spots captured in images buzzed back to Earth from NASA's New Horizons probe as it dashes towards its fateful rendezvous with dwarf planet Pluto. In particular, scientists have been fascinated with the size and spacing of the spots, which face Pluto's largest moon, Charon, …
Kelly Fiveash, 12 Jul 2015
Spam musubi

Post-pub nosh neckfiller: Chopstick-collapsing Spam musubi

Those of you of delicate culinary sensibilities would do well to look away now as we present for your wobbly dining pleasure the highly improbable Hawaiian-Japanese canned pork fusion cuisine that is Spam musubi. This Pacific island classic was apparently concocted up by Hawaii's Japanese population after they were introduced …
Lester Haines, 12 Jul 2015
An annotated version indicates features described in the text, and includes a reference globe showing Pluto’s orientation in the image, with the equator and central meridian in bold. Pic credit: NASA

PLUTO SPACE WHALE starts to give up its secrets

Excited NASA boffins have published yet more imagery of remote dwarf ice-planet Pluto – this time, however, with a bit more geology thrown in. The US space agency's New Horizons probe is now just three days away from its closest flyby of Pluto, having been on its deep space mission for nine and a half years. In the meantime, …
Kelly Fiveash, 11 Jul 2015
This is graphene-based film on an electronic component with high heat intensity. Pic credit: Johan Liu / Chamers University of Technology

Cool-headed boffins overcome sticky issue: Graphene-based film could turn heat down

A graphene-based film could help to cool down overheating microelectronic devices, scientists have claimed in a new study. Researchers at Chalmers University, led by professor Johan Liu, have developed the 20 micrometre-thick film, which apparently has a thermal conductivity capacity of 1,600 W/mK – four times that of copper …
Kelly Fiveash, 11 Jul 2015
Mars

NASA pops open a big can of red planet whup-ass with Mars Trek

Astrocartographers at NASA have made it possible to explore Mars in both 2D and 3D, from your phone or desktop, in much the same way as you might an online map of Earth. From urban orienteering, through to GeoGuessr, and Bellingcat's OSint, the professional, recreational, and activist use of maps has become firmly established …

Robot SHOOTS into the air with hot gas from its soft round behind

Harvard uni boffins have 3D printed a robot with a soft butt able to belch hot gases, thus unleashing a remorseless and invincible-ish hopping trouser-cough machine. An article titled A 3D-printed, functionally graded soft robot powered by combustion describes the bot in the 10 July issue of Science. The new design offers a …
Behring Strait. Pic: US government/NASA

China wants to build a 200km-long undersea tunnel to America

China likes trains. Its latest idea is to drive a railway route from Beijing to America via Russia, running under the Bering Strait to Alaska, Canada and America. The 8,000 mile route would need two undersea tunnels; one running from Russia to the Big Diomede Island, and one from Little Diomede Island to America – well, Alaska …
Simon Rockman, 10 Jul 2015
Black hole

GIGANTIC galaxy-chomping black hole rips boffins a new one

A team of astroboffins from ETH Zurich's Institute for Astronomy have discovered an enormous black hole that shouldn't exist. The black hole is one of the largest ever recorded, the equivalent of about seven billion the mass of our Sun. It resides in the heart of galaxy CID-947, which is around 11 billion light years away, …
Iain Thomson, 10 Jul 2015
Ripley (Sigourney Weaver)

NASA chooses ace SPACE PILOTS who'll take the USA back into manned flight

NASA has chosen the astronauts who will be first in the upcoming return by America to manned space operations. All four are veteran space fliers and former military test pilots. "For as long as I’ve been Administrator, President Obama has made it very clear that returning the launches of American astronauts to American soil is …
Iain Thomson, 9 Jul 2015
Credit: PLoS One/Danielle Dufault

Wendi the horny dino named after Canadian fossil hunter. Charming!

Pics A very big-boned and horny-faced ceratopsian dinosaur has been dubbed Wendiceratops pinhornensis as a tribute to the work of Canadian fossil hunter Wendy Sloboda. The new dino was identified from fossilised bones found in Alberta, Canada. Boffins involved in the dig believe that W pinhornensis was roughly 20 feet long and …
Lewis Page, 9 Jul 2015
New Horizons spacecraft approaching Pluto

PLUTO: The FINAL FRONTIER – best image yet of remote, icy dwarf planet REVEALED

Pics As New Horizons hurtles towards its dwarf planet target, NASA boffins have published the most detailed image of Pluto yet. Zooming in. Full size image here The image, snapped by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), was taken on 7 July, when the spacecraft was just under five million miles (eight million kilometres …
Simulated computer display of a particle collision in the large hadron collider (LHC) - image by CERN/Science photo library

Sorry, say boffins, the LHC still hasn't sucked us into a black hole

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has still failed to produce microscopic black holes, according to a new analysis of data from the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) collaboration. The idea, beloved of theoretical physicists, lawyers, and cranks others, is that collisions even down to the Tera-electron-volt (TeV) scale could produce …
Training image - Alex Hocking et al

Brit boffins teach mere PCs to find galaxies in Hubble pics

As astronomical datasets head towards the petabyte scale, they'll be too big for even crowd-sourced labelling and analysis, so a pair of Brit boffins are working on teaching computers to see and label galaxies in Hubble images. In doing so, they believe the algorithm they've created (a combination of “growing neural gas” or …
Selection of Australian banknotes

Australian Research Council funds clean tech

Technology research projects have won a decent slice of the latest round of Australian Research Council industry-linked funding – around AU$15.5 million of the $86 million total, by The Register's reckoning*. The total $86.9 million of government funding announced by education minister Chris Pyne will be overmatched by nearly …
Chemist at work

Black and Latina boffins regularly mistaken for janitors, study finds

A survey of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers has found that black and Latina boffins are being mistaken for janitors. The study [PDF], conducted by California's Hastings College of Law, found that women in STEM careers continue to face sexism and discrimination, with women of color …
Shaun Nichols, 8 Jul 2015

'Real' vampires reluctant to 'come out of the coffin' to social workers – barmy prof

Genuine, blood-drinking vampires lead difficult unlives and are often reluctant to "come out of the coffin" and reveal the fact of their vampirism to social workers and other care professionals, a new study suggests. The paper, titled Do we Always Practice What we Preach? Real Vampires' Fears of Coming out of the Coffin to …
New Horizons spacecraft approaching Pluto

DOUGHNUT (donut?) and whale FOUND ON PLUTO

Pics NASA has published new photos of the freezeworld Pluto, taken by its Far-travelling New Horizons probe - that prominently feature what appears to be a pareidolic whale and a tasty doughnut (or donut). The New Horizon space podule is closing in for its 14 July flyby of the frosty dwarf planet. The images, taken between 27 June …
opportunity selfie

Mars rover Opportunity shuns dodgy flash chips, relies on RAM

NASA says its aging solar-powered Opportunity rover will from now on explore the Red Planet without using its flash memory whenever possible. Opportunity has been on Mars since 2004, and it was expected to work for three months. Glitches in the rover's flash memory, which first became apparent with an ”amnesia” incident in …
Ceres' bright spots  Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Dawn falling late: NASA's other glitch of the week

While the world was distracted by New Horizons' brief woes, NASA also had to put its Dawn spacecraft into a holding pattern to work out a software glitch. Dawn, which is fascinating the world with its shots of Ceres – and exciting boffins and conspiracists alike with its shots of the dwarf planet's bright spots, is currently …
Johnny Cab

Robo-taxis, what are they good for? Er, the environment and traffic

Taxi firms that move from human drivers of gas-powered cabs to automated electric taxis could cut vehicle emissions by over 90 per cent, according to a study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Most of these emission cuts come from shifting from oil power to electric, but the study found that autonomous taxi services …
Iain Thomson, 7 Jul 2015
Black hole

Ginormous HIDDEN BLACK HOLES flood the universe – boffins

Pics NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) X-Ray telescope has observed a cluster of massive black holes that were hidden from Earth's view by interstellar dust clouds. Crucially, the findings indicate that there many more holes dotted around the universe than first thought. The black hole spotted by Durham …
Iain Thomson, 7 Jul 2015
HoloLens testing on the vomit comet

World's (possibly) first HoloLens startup promises mixed realities

A mobile upstart has claimed dibs on title of first HoloLens company. Object Theory launched Tuesday under the leadership of ex-Microsoft HoloLens Studio member Michael Hoffman and apps entrepreneur Raven Zachary. The pair claim they will help companies create, develop and launch “mixed reality” applications for Microsoft’s 3D …
Gavin Clarke, 7 Jul 2015
Philae takes a first look at the surface of Comet 67P

ALIEN SLIME SHOCKER: Approaching comet probably NOT inhabited, say boffins

The Rosetta probe's Earth-bound shepherds have sternly stated that suggestions of alien life within comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko - around which the probe is in orbit - are "pure speculation". Let us put aside the conflict humanity will eventually face if and when we do encounter alien life for a later date, and report …

Behold the mighty Swiss SPACE JUNK NOSHER PODULE

Vid The CleanSpace One Project is going to deploy a conical net on its orbital dustpan ship to capture a small SwissCube satellite, which had been purposefully littered into orbit as a demonstration of a interstellar debris collection. A 10cm3 satelliting box has been zipping about Earth's atmosphere for over five years, with …