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Dieting cannibals: At last, a scientist has calculated calories for human body parts

Imagine this: You’re trapped on a desert island. You’ve eaten nothing for 20 days and as you grow increasingly delirious, your friend who is also stuck in this godforsaken place begins to look appetizing... which part of the body should you eat first? According to a bizarre paper published in Scientific Reports, consuming body …
Katyanna Quach, 07 Apr 2017
Artist's view of a binary black hole. Pic credit: NASA, ESA and G Bacon (STScI)

Riddle of cannibal black hole pairs solved ... nearly: Astroboffins explain all to El Reg

Astrophysicists are one step closer to understanding how pairs of merging black holes form in the far reaches of the cosmos. The dramatic melding of two black holes produced the first gravitational waves detected by the Earth-based Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO). While these waves confirmed …
Katyanna Quach, 06 Apr 2017

We know what you're thinking: Where the hell is all the antimatter?

The mystery behind why there is an imbalance between matter and antimatter in the universe could be one step closer to being solved. First, let's kick off with some gentle particle physics to set the scene. Scientists are hunting for something called neutrinoless double beta decay: in normal double beta decay, two neutrons …
Katyanna Quach, 06 Apr 2017

Goodbye, cruel world! NASA's Cassini preps for kamikaze Saturn dive

Video NASA's Cassini spacecraft will enter the final stages of its mission by nosediving between Saturn’s rings on April 26, before it rams into the planet's atmosphere and vaporizes. The spaceship was launched 20 years ago and has been in orbit around Saturn since 2004. Now, running low on fuel, it's preparing for the descent …
Katyanna Quach, 05 Apr 2017
Vikings. Credit: History Channel.

Steppe thugs pacified by the love of stone age women

It happens to the best of us: one minute you're raiding and pillaging on the Pontic-Caspian steppe, the next you're settled down with a stone age woman, have a mortgage on the hut and 2.4 kids. According to an article in the journal Antiquity, Steppe migrant thugs who came into Europe via Ukraine were pacified by Stone Age …
Kat Hall, 04 Apr 2017
Boeing's concept illustration for a Space Gateway

Boeing details 'Deep Space Gateway' for Mars mission staging

Aerospace outfit Boeing has detailed the hardware it thinks humanity will need to stage a piloted mission to Mars. Boeing is already working with NASA to develop the Space Launch System (SLS), the very heavy lifter it's hoped will power a Mars shot. Now it's also offered up conceptual designs for other kit that it thinks will …
Simon Sharwood, 04 Apr 2017

Mediaeval Yorkshirefolk mutilated, burned t'dead to prevent reanimation

Archaeologists investigating human bones excavated from the deserted mediaeval village of Wharram Percy in North Yorkshire have suggested that the villagers burned and mutilated corpses to prevent the dead from rising from their graves to terrorise the living. Although starvation cannibalism often accounts for the mutilation …
Spean bridge photo credit David Spooner

Lochs, rifle stocks and two EPIC sea gates: Thomas Telford's Highland waterway

GEEK'S GUIDE TO BRITAIN The Highlands are home to spectacular hills and mountains. You'll also find dotted around some fairly unusual engineering projects that have endeavoured to conquer them. One of the oldest and most enduring of these grand projects is the Caledonian Canal, which cuts across 96km (60 miles) of Scotland from Inverness to Fort …
David Spooner, 03 Apr 2017
Mars

Wet, wild Mars stripped off by hot young star, left barren and red faced

Powerful solar wind and radiation have stripped away most of the Martian atmosphere, transforming the planet from one that could have been wet and with the potential to harbor life, to the barren dusty place it is today. NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission was launched in 2013 to study the planet's …
Katyanna Quach, 31 Mar 2017
Ninth planet from the Sun

How hard will it be to measure Planet Nine?

Planet 9 will be easier to find if we know what we're looking for, so a French astronomer has set himself the task of trying to wrap the enigma in some parameters. When the idea of a ninth planet (using the guidelines that excluded Pluto from planet status) was mooted last year, the CalTech group that ran the orbital maths …
launch

SpaceX wows world with a ho-hum launch of a reused rocket, landing it on a tiny boring barge

Pics Elon Musk's promised revolution in affordable orbital delivery has begun: today his upstart SpaceX successfully launched a refurbished rocket from Earth, carrying a commercial satellite into orbit, and then landed the rocket's first stage on a sea barge. For any miserabilists hoping for drama, failure, and explosions, no such …
Iain Thomson, 30 Mar 2017
Tengen's Tetris

How about a nice game of ... Tetris? Oxford eggheads slow PTSD onset with classic game

Playing a game of Tetris in the aftermath of a traumatic event can help alleviate the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. This according to a report from a team of university researchers in the UK, Germany, and Sweden, who say in their paper [PDF] for the journal Molecular Psychiatry that when given the computer game …
Shaun Nichols, 30 Mar 2017
Oxia Planum, one of two possible landing sites for the ExoMars 2020 mission

ESA picks final two ExoMars landing site candidates

The European Space Agency has narrowed its candidate list of landing sites for the ExoMars rover to two choices. ExoMars should fly in the year 2020 and will carry a rover and a stationary observer to the Red Planet. The big question is where to land both. The ESA prefers locations that offer opportunities to explore hitherto …
Simon Sharwood, 29 Mar 2017

Astroboffins clock thriving stellar nursery nestled in violent supermassive black hole

Astronomers have for the first time found stars forming within the violent outflows of material ejected from a supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy. Stars are born under extreme conditions. Intense gravitational forces cause gas to collapse into a heated ball, until the pressure can be balanced with the outward …
Katyanna Quach, 27 Mar 2017
Unusual cloud over the ocean. photo by shutterstock

Boffins name 12 new types of cloud in first Cloud Atlas since 1986

The World Meteorological Organisation has published the first new edition of its Cloud Atlas since 1986 and in so doing named eleven new types of cloud, some identified by digital-camera-wielding citizen cloud wonks. The new edition is also the first to be published online. The big new addition to the Atlas is “Volutus”, a …
Simon Sharwood, 27 Mar 2017
Ninth planet from the Sun

Boffins crowdsource hunt for 'Planet 9'

The Australian National University (ANU) is recruiting citizens to look at hundreds of thousands of images, in case they can find the mooted-but-not-yet-discovered “Planet 9”. The long-dismissed idea that there's an undiscovered planet beyond Pluto was revived in January 2016 when CalTech boffins claimed they'd spotted …
Koala on a rocket

Trump's America looks like a lousy launchpad, so can you dig Darwin?

At some point over the last fortnight, watching the second launch countdown in as many weeks via YouTube livestream, it became clear the Second Space Age - as promised by Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson - had become entirely real. The promised land of cheap(er) commercial payload launches has come to pass. Even if …
Mark Pesce, 27 Mar 2017
Meantime Bespoke beer

DNA-bothering eggheads brew beer you were literally born to like

London-based Meantime Brewing Company, acquired a year ago by Belgian beverage multinational Anheuser-Busch InBev, wants to sell you beer tuned to your taste. To do so, the company plans to direct willing customers to genetic testing service 23andMe – the Silicon Valley personal genomics biz that's slowly emerging from its …
Thomas Claburn, 25 Mar 2017
Brown dwarf

Astroboffins stunned by biggest brown dwarf ever seen – just a hop and a skip away (750 ly)

Pic Astronomers claim to have identified the largest and purest brown dwarf ever seen, measuring in at a record-breaking 90 times the mass of Jupiter. And it's hovering fairly nearby in the Milky Way. Brown dwarves are failed stars that did not grow large enough to start the hydrogen fusing process like main-sequence stars such as …
Katyanna Quach, 25 Mar 2017

Boffins reveal how to pour a perfect glass of wine with no drips. First step, take a diamond...

Video A biophysicist has found a way to save precious wine drops from leaking down the side of the bottle after it’s poured into a glass. There are ways to prevent spillage with nifty devices inserted into the bottle neck. But Daniel Perlman, a senior research scientist and inventor at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, America, …
Katyanna Quach, 24 Mar 2017
Sunspots from Feb 2017 vs March 2017

Our Sun's been using facial scrub: No spots for two weeks

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory has spotted nothing for the last two weeks, which is unusual. By “nothing” we mean no Sunspots, the magnetic fluctuations that cause the Sun to form dark spots that produce flares of star-stuff that can rise millions of kilometres into space. Big ones could swallow the Earth, with room left …
Simon Sharwood, 24 Mar 2017
SpaceX robot

Spotted: Bizarre SpaceX rocket-snatching machine that looks like it belongs on Robot Wars

Pic A robot has been spotted on the landing pad of SpaceX's floating barge Of course I still love you, and the rocket biz is refusing to say what it is for. Coming soon from SpaceX! Click to enlarge (Source: Stephen Marr, used with permission) This photo of the machine was taken by a couple flying over the Florida port where …
Iain Thomson, 23 Mar 2017

NASA to fire 1Gbps laser 'Wi-Fi' ... into spaaaaace

NASA hopes to use lasers to shoot data to and from the International Space Station and Earth at gigabit-per-second rates by 2021. The Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) has the potential to become “the high-speed internet of the sky,” the American space agency said on Wednesday. The plan is to encode digital data …
Katyanna Quach, 23 Mar 2017
trappist1

TRAPPIST-1's planets are quiet. Quiet as the grave, in fact

Boiled dry or extra-terrestrial snowballs, it turns out that the multi exoplanets orbiting the star dubbed TRAPPIST-1 are almost certainly inhospitable to life. NASA's original announcement held three of the seven planets in the system could be within a habitable zone, but alas there's a killjoy. Enter Eric Wolf, of the …
Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Now THAT'S a landslide victory: Astroboffins snap avalanche on a comet in science first

Pics Scientists have seen a landslide on a comet for the first time ever, it was announced on Tuesday. Images captured by the Rosetta space probe show a 134-metre (439-foot) cliff – nicknamed Aswan – on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko crumbling away to reveal the spotless icy interior hiding under its surface. The …
Katyanna Quach, 22 Mar 2017
CERN particle trace visualisation

Large Hadron Collider turns up five new particles

Boffins poring over data from the Large Hadron Collider's “Beauty” experiment are blinking in surprise, having turned up five new particles in one hit. The “hiding in plain sight” articles in data from the "LHCb" are all excited states of the baryon Omega-c-zero, Ωc0, and the CERN boffins saw the five new particles from its …
dragon

Murder in space: NASA orders astronauts to KILL cripples – then fire bodies back to Earth

After almost a month spent attached to the International Space Station, SpaceX's Dragon capsule has successfully returned to Earth. The podule, laden with science experiments including the bodies of 40 mice, is now on its way to NASA via ship. The capsule, which made a belated berthing with the ISS on February 23 thanks to a …
Iain Thomson, 21 Mar 2017
laser truck

US military's latest toy set: Record-breaking laser death star, er, truck

Vid Lockheed Martin says it is ready to deliver its most powerful laser weapon yet to the US military. This Death-Star-on-wheels can shoot down drones, missiles, and similar stuff, we're told. The American weapons conglomerate self-funded the building of a 30kW test system and then scaled the design up. The 60kW version is mounted …
Iain Thomson, 17 Mar 2017
The Italian town of Brindisi and surrounds shot by ESA Sentinel B

A big day for the ESA: Sentinel snaps and ExoMars brakes

If you're trying to sell something to the European Space Agency, today could be the day to move in and close the deal because there should be smiles all round after two missions achieved important milestones. The most visible achievement is depicted above (here for mobile readers): the Italian port city of Brindisi, as …
Simon Sharwood, 17 Mar 2017
trinity

60 slow-mo A-bomb test videos explode onto YouTube

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has released a recently-declassified collection of films depicting atmospheric nuclear weapons tests conducted between 1945 and 1962. The United States conducted extensive atmospheric testing during those years, and the Laboratory says they were all captured on film by multiple …
Simon Sharwood, 17 Mar 2017
trump

NASA swerves serious cash cuts – but Earth climate probes, asteroid snatcher face axe

While some government departments are facing swinging cuts in President Trump's "America First" proposed budget, NASA appears to have escaped lightly – so far. Funding was cut by $200m, and the total going to America's space agency is $19.1bn per year. Even so, NASA has had to cancel some popular programs. The mission to catch …
Iain Thomson, 16 Mar 2017
NASA image - Van Allen Belts

Van Allen surprise: fewer nasty particles than NASA expected

Video After a three-year search, NASA's Van Allen Probes have worked out there's far fewer high-energy electrons in the Van Allen Belts than previously thought. That's good news, because electrons moving at relativistic speeds are a danger to navigation, as NASA explains in a paper that's just landed in the Journal of Geophysical …

SpaceX yoinks $96m GPS launch deal from under ULA's nose

The US Air Force has awarded a $96m contract to SpaceX to launch one of its next-generation GPS satellites, in a competitive contract that left the United Launch Alliance in the dust. The launch, which must take place by April 30, 2019, will see the GPS III satellite launched from SpaceX's spaceport. As it's a low-Earth orbit …
Iain Thomson, 15 Mar 2017

Dark matter drought hits older galaxies: Boffins are, rightly, baffled

The mystery surrounding dark matter deepens: scientists have discovered that the puzzling substance was less dominant in our universe's early galaxies. Although no one knows what dark matter is made out of, physicists generally agree that it exists, and that it can be observed albeit indirectly. In the 1970s, astronomers …
Katyanna Quach, 15 Mar 2017

Oxford Uni boffins say internet filters probably won't protect teens

Researchers from the University of Oxford have suggested that, instead of rolling out internet filters, those who are concerned about what teenagers encounter online should spend some time helping their parents parent them. The research paper, "Internet Filtering Technology and Aversive Online Experiences in Adolescents", was …

Blast from the past: Mass birth of early supermassive black holes explained at last

The earliest supermassive black holes have always puzzled astronomers. These ancient voids – about a billion times the mass of the Sun – were discovered more than a decade ago and formed only 800,000 years after the Big Bang. It should take millions of years for black holes to accumulate that much mass, so finding these giants …
Katyanna Quach, 14 Mar 2017

Time crystals really do exist, say physicists*

A new quantum state of matter has been experimentally observed for the first time, according to two papers published in Nature. In 2012, Frank Wilczek, a Nobel-prize winning physicist proposed the idea of "time crystals": an open, ground state system that breaks time translational symmetry. The name is a little confusing as …
Katyanna Quach, 14 Mar 2017
ISRO's Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter

NASA finds India's missing lunar orbiter with Earth-bound radar

In 2009, a lunar orbiter launched by India went quiet and was never heard from again. Fast-forward eight years and NASA say it's spotted it using an Earth-based radar. The Indian Space Research Organisation's Chandrayaan-1 orbiter was supposed to spend two years on its mission, but after 312 days its communications systems …

If fast radio bursts really are revving up interstellar sailcraft, here's the maths

Astrophysicists think that mysterious short millisecond-long blip of radiation may be distant aliens powering up their sailcraft. Over 20 such FRBs (fast radio bursts) have been detected since 2007. Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics speculates that the mysterious bursts could be powering interstellar …
Andrew Orlowski, 10 Mar 2017
Gwynne Shotwell

What went up, Musk come down again: SpaceX to blast sat into orbit with used rocket

March is going to be a crunch month for SpaceX: it hopes to, for the first time ever, launch a commercial satellite into orbit using a previously used rocket. One of the Falcon 9 boosters Elon Musk's upstart has successfully blasted off and landed has been extensively refurbished for the mission. SpaceX's president Gwynne …
Iain Thomson, 09 Mar 2017
NASA Cold Atom Lab concept image

NASA's atom-chiller ready to fly to the ISS

Plenty of readers will agree that the International Space Station would be a cool place to work, and it's getting cooler: a billionth of a degree above 0K (in a very small spot). If all goes to plan, August's SpaceX CRS-12 supply mission to the ISS will carry NASA's long-planned Cold Atom Laboratory, an experiment to help …
New Glenn

Your Amazon order is confirmed: Eutelsat via Blue Origin. Estimated delivery date: 2022

Video Blue Origin, the orbital delivery service funded by Amazon supremo Jeff Bezos, has taken its first satellite launch booking. We're told the sat will be put into orbit in 2021 or 2022 – basically, once Bezos has finished building the rocket to do the job. If all goes to plan, Blue Origin will launch a communications satellite …
Iain Thomson, 08 Mar 2017

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