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So, what exactly defines a 'boffin'? Speak your brains...

The recent protest by computer scientist Yossi Oren of Columbia University that he hadn't been hailed as a boffin here at El Reg prompted some lively debate at Vulture Central as what exactly defines the term. Some of us, while conceding that scientists such as Oren are indeed clever chaps, felt that his area of expertise lacked …
Lester Haines, 12 Jun 2014
Placoderm mating

Wedding tackle started out as PROTO-SHARKS' LEGS, boffins say

Researchers from Australia and the UK have taken a look back over the fossil records of placoderms - an early type of armoured fish - and come up with a startling suggestion: some of the earliest male genital organs known to palaeontology started out as a kind of “legs”. Well, not quite legs, since placoderms were aquatic: …
DARPA's gecko-inspired Z-Man paddles

SPIDER-TROOP, Spider-troop, does whatever a spider troop can

Mad military boffinry agency DARPA has come up with the latest iteration of a fan-favourite tech – gecko-inspired climbing pads that will allow GI Joes to scale walls like Spider-Man. The Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has used its Z-Man project to get the first known example of a human climbing a 25-foot (7. …

US MARTIAN FLYING SAUCER tests above Hawaii: postponed

Today's planned launch of the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) has been cancelled, meaning that ballocket fans have once again been denied the thrill of seeing a mighty 963,000m3 helium-filled orb lift a rocket-powered flying saucer into the upper atmosphere. NASA had its LDSD all prepped and ready to roll yesterday, …
Lester Haines, 11 Jun 2014

MIGHTY SOLAR FLARES fail to DESTROY CIVILISATION. Yes!

Vid Humanity has once again dodged apocalypse after a solar flare failed to bring civilisation to its knees. NASA gives particularly huge flares the rating of X-Class, with an X2 being twice as powerful as X1 and an X3 twice as intense as X2 again. The latest one was a whopping X2.2 and erupted into space on June 10. NASA …
Jasper Hamill, 11 Jun 2014

FLYING SAUCER 'designed for Mars atmosphere' in Pacific US military base

NASA reckons the weather in Hawaii is looking vaguely hopeful for the launch later today of its Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) - the flying saucer ballocket mission designed to test inflatable deceleration airbags for possible deployment on future Mars landings. The agency slapped a photo up on Twitter yesterday …
Lester Haines, 11 Jun 2014
Mars

World first: ANIMATED GIF of Mercurian SUN ZOOM from MARS

Ever wondered what on earth the Mars Rover Curiosity is actually doing all the way out there on the surface of the Red Planet? Staring into space, that's what. Whilst peering up at the stars last week, the car-sized nuclear powered prowler caught sight of the planet Mercury passing in front of the sun, representing the first …
Jasper Hamill, 11 Jun 2014
Aerial still of the Dallas Cowboys stadium

Dallas Cowboys to return 'dumbass' Texan's chopper

The Dallas Cowboys have located the quadcopter which a self-confessed "dumbass" pilot planted on the roof of the team's AT&T Stadium in Arlington, the local Star-Telegram reports. The unnamed operator's DJI Phantom Vision went into "return to home" mode when he "let the building get between me and the transmitter", as he …
Lester Haines, 11 Jun 2014

Glacier's hot butt melts ice, boffins say

Underground sources of geothermal heat have been named as one reason Antarctica's Thwaites Glacier is melting. Thwaites Glacier is a big contributor to the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which is thought to be in danger of collapse in part because glaciers aren't sending it as much ice as has previously been the case. If the whole …
Simon Sharwood, 11 Jun 2014

Urine a goldmine for fuel-cell materials: boffins

Over the centuries, urine has been collected for all manner of unpleasant industrial applications. Now, a new research paper suggests pee could be a big contributor to the future of carbon fuel-cell technology. According to this paper in Nature, doped collections of carbon atoms recovered from human urine have the right kind of …

Egghead dragged over coals for mining Bitcoin on uni supercomputer

The US National Science Foundation has suspended a researcher for using two university computers to mine Bitcoins. In its biannual report [PDF] to the US Congress, the government agency revealed the misdoing and recommended action: The researcher misused over $150,000 in NSF-supported computer usage at two universities to …
Simon Rockman, 10 Jun 2014
Aerial still of the Dallas Cowboys stadium

Texan parks quadcopter atop Dallas Cowboys stadium

A self-confessed Texan "dumbass" is attempting to retrieve his quadcopter from the roof of the Dallas Cowboys stadium in Arlington after interrupted radio comms prompted an unplanned touchdown atop the lofty structure. Aerial still of the Dallas Cowboys stadium The vehicle in question is a DJI Phantom Vision, which went …
Lester Haines, 10 Jun 2014

Cunning Reg reader cracks LOHAN hot coupling condundrum

We invite fans of our Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator (LOHAN) project to raise a glass or two today to the Reg reader who finally cracked the problem of just how to hook up our Vulture 2 spaceplanes's rocket motor heater. To summarise, we've got a space-grade Polyimide Thermofoil flexible heater wrapped round our aircraft's …
Lester Haines, 10 Jun 2014
The new hexaquark

Massive news in the micro-world: a hexaquark particle

A German research synchrotron is trumpeting its find of a new exotic particle with six quarks – the largest quark number ever observed. The "dibaryon" (two baryons) is described in a paper in Physical Review Letters (abstract here, pre-print version here at Arxiv). If you're like this Vulture South hack, the paper reads as a …
Elon Charges a tesla S

Look inside ELON MUSK'S CAR! Tesla S wundervehicle has voom

The Model S isn’t the car Tesla wants to sell. At an event in London over the weekend when the company handed over the first right-hand drive to UK customers – including mummy-pr0n purveyor EL "50 Shades of Grey" James – SpaceX bigwig Elon Musk said the car was “more expensive than we would like”, and that he would like to thank …
Simon Rockman, 9 Jun 2014

NASA beams vid from space via laser

Vid NASA has pulled off an impressive bit of space data transfer by beaming a 175 meg hi-def video from the International Space Station to the ground via laser. The Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS) experiment used a 2.5W 1,550nm laser to beam the vid earthwards in just 3.5 seconds, a feat which "would have taken more …
Lester Haines, 9 Jun 2014
The Moon

Evidence of ancient WORLD SMASHER planet Theia - FOUND ON MOON

Traces of mysterious planet Theia have been found on the surface of Earth's Moon. Boffins have analysed samples of rock brought back by Apollo astronauts, and claimed they contain bits of another world. The discovery appears to back up the theory that the Moon was formed when Theia slammed into Earth some 4.5 billion years ago …
Jasper Hamill, 6 Jun 2014
The servo doused in foam as a fireman, doctors and workers gather around our Playmonaut

Plucky Playmonaut bails out of smoking Vulture 2

Our plucky Playmonaut has decided to take a long weekend off after a servo meltdown during a ground avionics test of our Vulture 2 spaceplane prompted a sharpish exit from the vehicle. Here's the scene immediately after the scare, as emergency crews rushed in to cordon off the area, douse the offending kit with foam and gave our …
Lester Haines, 6 Jun 2014
The two types of plastiglomerate

Plastic is the new rock, say Geologists

Geologists have identified what they say is a new class of rock. 'Plastiglomerates', as the new rocks are called, form when plastic debris washes up on beaches, breaks down into small pieces, becomes mixed in sand or sticks to other rocks and solidifies into an agglomerate mixing all of the above. Such rocks, say US and Canadian …
Pack ice on Mars. image credit ESA

YOU - NASA. Enough with the ROBOTS, get some PEOPLE to MARS

Vid It's time to stop mucking about and get your ass to Mars. That was the message delivered by Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall, but it's also the advice proffered by a report into NASA's interplanetary activities. The National Research Council (NRC) has published a report in which it told NASA that its ultimate goal should be …
Jasper Hamill, 5 Jun 2014
The M55 star cluster

Boffins publish SciFi story to announce exoplanet find

Boffins from the Queen Mary University of London have chosen an unusual way to announce a new exoplanet find, commissioning a short story describing the recently-revealed worlds. There's a paper about the find too, and a promise of more to come in a future issue of the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The paper …

Russians turn Raspberry Pi into fully-fledged autopilot

Anyone with an interest in Raspberry Pis and autopilots – in common with the Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator (LOHAN) team – should nip down to Indiegogo to check out the Navio: an impressive-looking autopilot shield for the diminutive fruity computer. The Russian team behind the Navio is already well on the way to raising …
Lester Haines, 4 Jun 2014
Titanboa constricts Anthracosuchus balrogus croc

Monster croc 'the BALROG' tussles with mighty Titanoboa snake

Pic A mighty ancient croc that battled monster snakes has been named after the mythical creature of the deep that was nearly Gandalf the Grey’s downfall – the Balrog. Titanboa constricts Anthracosuchus balrogus croc Titanboa constricts Anthracosuchus balrogus croc (Credit: Smithsonian Channel) Just as the Balrog rose up from the …

Amazing never-seen-before photo of colourful hot young stars (Thanks Hubble)

A new composite image from the Hubble Space Telescope has revealed the universe's "grade-school children" – star-forming galaxies 5 to 10 billion light years away. The Hubble Ultra Deep Field 2014 image. Pic: NASA The Hubble Ultra Deep Field 2014 is made up of images of an area of space within the constellation Fornax, …
Lester Haines, 4 Jun 2014

New development in 'stadium-sized' FLYING SAUCER orb invasion

Pics NASA has clarified the exact size of the mighty helium balloon that will later today lift its Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) over the Pacific Ocean. As we reported yesterday, the agency vaguely described the whopping 963,000 cubic metre orb as so big you could "fit a professional football stadium inside it". The …
Lester Haines, 3 Jun 2014
CSIRO's solar thermal station

CSIRO claims milestone in solar-powered steam turbines

The CSIRO is trumpeting a breakthrough in using solar energy to create “supercritical” steam suitable for powering electricity turbines. The $AU9.7 million demonstration project, at the agency's Energy Centre in Newcastle, hit a steam pressure of 23.5 megapascals (MPa) at a temperature of 570°C. That's significant, because it …
Kepler-10c artist's impression

'GODZILLA WORLD' of the DRAGON CONSTELLATION - scientists

Pics Kepler-10c, dubbed the "Godzilla" planet by top international boffins, has a mass 17 times that of our planet - it has emerged this week - and orbits a star 560 lightyears away in the constellation Draco - the Dragon. The Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics (CfA) announcement here has set reporters afire with the idea …

Flying saucer with 'stadium-sized' orb to INVADE Earth's skies

Pic NASA's forthcoming flight of the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) – a flying saucer-esque test platform for technologies intended to one day safely deposit larger payloads on the surface of Mars – will be lifted by a helium-filled balloon so large you could "fit a professional football stadium inside it". This agreeable …
Lester Haines, 2 Jun 2014
Still from the IRIS video of the CME. Pic: NASA

Watch: Sun BELCHES PLASMA large enough to ENGULF 35 EARTHS

Vid NASA's Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) has filmed some impressive footage of a coronal mass ejection (CME) - the first such footage to come from the "Small Explorer Mission" to examine the Sun's lower atmosphere. Captured on 9 May, the video shows a "giant sheet of solar material" about "five Earths wide and about …
Lester Haines, 2 Jun 2014
Delft University's quantum teleportation setup

Quantum teleportation gets reliable at Delft

A research group at Delft University of Technology has set the lesser-brained among the world's science writers in an absolute tizz by demonstrating what it describes as reliable quantum teleportation. Of course, mention quantum phenomena like entanglement (and therefore teleportation) and the only angle anyone can think of is “ …
Bacon inhaler

SCIENCE explains why you LOVE the smell of BACON

Scientists have explained the reason why humans love the smell of frying bacon. Bacon-boffins from the American Chemical Society and Compound Interest produced a video summarizing a research effort into the compounds that give everyone's favorite cured breakfast meat its distinctive and wonderful aroma. Video: The Smell of …
Shaun Nichols, 31 May 2014
SpaceX seven-seater, manned Dragon V2

SpaceX 'Dragon V2' ROCKET PODULE can hover-land on Earth - or MARS

Pics + Vid Elon Musk has unveiled the manned rocket he hopes will win his upstart rocket startup SpaceX the contract to ferry ‘nauts to and from the International Space Station – and set humanity on the path to Martian colonisation. Youtube Video Musk lived up to the Tony Stark comparisons with a glitzy ceremony to literally unveil the …

SPB's mountaintop HQ menaced by WOLVES

It's with one eye on the distant sierra and a shotgun close to hand that I report today that attempts to expel wolves from the Spanish province of Ávila have failed. Despite vociferous and emotive exhortations, mostly from farmers, the Junta de Castilla y León has rejected a call to declare the province a "wolf-free zone", …
Lester Haines, 30 May 2014

TOADOCALYPSE NOW: Madagascar faces down amphibious assault

A group of scientists has urged the Madagascan government to take up arms against the Asian common toad - a poisonous relative of the infamous cane toad which has gained a foothold on the Indian Ocean island. In a letter to Nature, Jonathan Kolby of Oz's James Cook University, together with 11 other researchers, warn that …
Lester Haines, 30 May 2014
Farquhar, his family, and ISEE-3

IT'S ALIVE! ISEE-3 responding to commands

The crowd-funded group that's seeking to revive the ISEE-3 probe is crowing, and no wonder: they have tentatively taken control of a spacecraft once thought to be beyond help. ISEE-3, the 1978-launched Sun-studying-come-comet-chasing NASA deep space probe, is heading Earthwards, but until the reboot project got off the ground, …
Random numbers

Boffins: How to generate crypto-keys using a smartphone – and quantum physics

Your smartphone can be used to generate cryptographic keys from truly random numbers "of a quantum origin", according to bods at the University of Geneva. The Swiss research claims, quite simply, that illuminating the camera of a device like the Nokia N9 can cause quantum effects, which ultimately can be used to generate strong …
The Soyuz TMA-13M rocket is launched, as seen in this 30-second exposure at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Credit:  NASA/Joel Kowsky

Welcome to the ISS. Don't mention Ukraine if you ever want to leave

Vid Three astronauts, including two space newbies, were blasted off to the International Space Station last night aboard a Soyuz rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst and NASA ‘naut Reid Wiseman, who were on their first trips into space, and Russian cosmonaut Max Suraev were …
Team Register, 29 May 2014
DTU's fuel-cell printer

How about printing your electricity?

Danish boffins have hacked – comprehensively hacked, since the work involves extensive case-modding – an HP inkjet, turning it into a device that can print fuel cells. The work was carried out at the Danish Technical University's Energy Conversion program, and creates solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) without needing expensive …
The Yutu lunar rover

Jade Rabbit nearly out of hop

The Jade Rabbit (Yutu in Chinese) moon probe is pretty much on its last legs, according to reports emerging from China. The spacecraft had surprised the country's space scientists in February by waking up in spite of an unspecified “mechanical control abnormality”. Its initial behaviour in December had been encouraging: it …
Broken CD

Still watching DVDs? You're a PLANET-KILLING CARBON HOG!

Here's one idea to get the world moving on carbon abatement: close the remaining DVD video industry and get everybody onto streaming. Of course, in countries like Australia, where rights-holders routinely hold back streaming availability in favour of TV broadcasters, where BitTorrent will get you Game of Thrones sooner than …
Bring out your dead - Monty Python

Telstra backs a couple of percent of NICTA's budget

Australia's incumbent telco, Telstra, has put forward a touch over a million dollars with negotiable extensions to research body NICTA, which is at risk of being a casualty of the Australian government's cuts to science, research, and education. The federal government announced in its budget that public funding for NICTA would …

US sheddies knock up flying plastic toolbox

Vid If ever there was a bit of kit with shed written all over it then the Box-O-Copter is definitely it - a flying plastic toolbox knocked together by the chaps at FliteTest. The Box-O-Copter Apart from being agreeably silly, the Box-O-Copter was built on the principle of "brain not frame" - investing cash in avionics and not …
Lester Haines, 28 May 2014