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China's 'future-proof' crypto: We talk to firm behind crazy quantum key distribution network

Two hundred local government employees across the capital of China's eastern Shandong province will soon be encrypting messages with keys that are "impossible" to crack. QuantumCTek, headquartered in the humid, subtropical city of Hefei in eastern China, will next month launch a commercial network for creating and sharing …
Andrew Silver, 19 Jul 2017
NASA image - Van Allen Belts

NASA whistles up electron noise from the Van Allen belt

NASA boffins in charge of the agency's Van Allen Belt mission have recorded audio-frequency noise made by energetic electrons emitting what's known as “whistler waves”. NASA Goddard says the waves shape the near-Earth space environment and also characterise different types of plasma, making them worthy of our curiosity. So …
mayak

Russia launches non-TERRIFYING satellite that focuses Sun's solar rays onto Earth

Skywatchers are going to see a new light in the heavens this week after the successful launch of the Russian satellite Mayak this past weekend. Mayak, the Russian word for "beacon," is a standard tiny CubeSat probe. It will deploy 170 square feet (16 square metres) of reflective Mylar material in a pyramid shape that will …
Iain Thomson, 17 Jul 2017

Google unleashes 20m lab-created blood-thirsty freaks on a city. And this is a good thing, it says

Google’s healthcare arm Verily announced just before the weekend it will release twenty million sterile male mosquitoes into the wild, in Fresno County, California. Don't panic: it's to test fighting diseases like Zika, dengue and chikungunya. The Debug Project will be the biggest US study to set free mosquitoes infected with …
Katyanna Quach, 17 Jul 2017
DARPA robosat concept image

DARPA's robot sat-fixing program survives sueball strike

Aerospace company Orbital ATK has failed in a legal bid to halt a DARPA contract for robotic satellite maintenance devices and will instead see if the White House can help it to bring the work to the private sector. The lawsuit centres around contracts awarded last year, after years of investigations, that would launch a test …

Physicists send supersonic shock waves rippling through a lab

Scientists have managed to create powerful supersonic shock waves – comparable to those generated in space – under laboratory conditions. Shock waves are important in the universe. They drive cosmic rays and spread supernova particles close to the speed of light, kickstarting several physical phenomena such as the Aurora …
Katyanna Quach, 15 Jul 2017
Tardigrade

Eggheads identify the last animal that will survive on Earth until the Sun dies

Humans are newcomers on Earth and it's almost certain that we won't be around, on this planet at least, when the solar system's star finally goes nova. But boffins have identified at least one animal that will be. It is estimated that our star will die in about five billion years, after growing to a red giant that will most …
Iain Thomson, 14 Jul 2017

Luxembourg passes first EU space mining law. One can possess the Spice

Luxembourg's parliament has passed a law that makes it the first European Union country to offer legal certainty that asteroid mining companies get to keep what they find in space. Take Article 1: "Space resources are capable of being appropriated". "It's a great law," Amara Graps, a planetary scientist, asteroid mining …
Andrew Silver, 14 Jul 2017

ESA trying to 'bake, rattle and roll' gravity wave space probe

The European Space Agency is giving the LISA Pathfinder probe what it calls the “Bake, rattle and roll” treatment in the hope it teaches us how to make its successors even better. As the name suggests, LISA Pathfinder is a test mission for the planned three-vessel LISA space observatory, which will be positioned in a …
Simon Sharwood, 14 Jul 2017
Jupiter red spot

Juno beams back first closeups of Jupiter's unsightly red acne

NASA has released the first closeup images of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, the massive storm system that has been swirling on its surface for over 180 years. On July 10, the Juno space probe swooped within 5,600 miles (9,010 kilometers) of Jupiter’s surface, directly over the storm system. Now the pictures are back and the space …
Iain Thomson, 13 Jul 2017
SOFIA's planned mission to look at Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69

NASA flies plane through Earthly shadow of Kuiper Belt object

NASA has flown a plane through shadow of Kuiper Belt object 6.6bn kilometres from Earth. The object is 2014 MU69, a maybe-40km-across more than 1.5bn km past Pluto that is the New Horizons mission's next port of call after its encounter with Pluto. Humanity has precisely zero close-up experience of such objects and we've only …
Simon Sharwood, 12 Jul 2017

Astroboffins spot tiniest star yet – we guess you could call it... small fry

The tiniest star, similar in size to Saturn, has been discovered as part of an eclipsing binary system by a group of astronomers. Codenamed EBLM J0555-57Ab, researchers believe the star is teetering on the edge of how small a star can possibly be. It has a mass (0.081M☉) and radius (0.084R☉) less than a tenth of our Sun’s mass …
Katyanna Quach, 11 Jul 2017
Photon, image via Shutterstock

Japan joins quantum space race with microsatellite demo

Japan has become the latest country to demonstrate quantum communication with a satellite, in this case a micro-satellite named SOCRATES. The National Institute of Information and Communication Technology (NICT) announced the quantum key distribution (QKD) test, which showed off the capabilities of its SOTA quantum …

Just in time for summer boozing: Boffins smash world record for the most perfect ice cubes

An international team of chemists has set the new record for crafting near-perfect cubic ice crystals. Sadly, the ice cubes are so small, they are invisible to the naked eye. This is according to a study in The Journal of Physical Chemistry. It might sound trivial, but it is an extremely difficult task – one that involves …
Katyanna Quach, 10 Jul 2017
atlas_lhc_cern_648

LHC finds a new and very charming particle: the Xicc++ baryon

What happens if you get two charm quarks together in one baryon? Something four times as heavy as a proton that can help the world understand the strong nuclear force, according to boffins at the Large Hadron Collider. Last week, CERN announced the first “unambiguous” observation of a particle comprising the two charm quarks …

Semiconductor-laced bunny eyedrops appear to nuke infections

In early lab experiments on rabbits, eyedrops laced with nanoparticles appear to combat bacterial keratitis, a serious infection of the cornea which can, in severe cases, cause blindness. Researchers hope that these nanoparticles could someday offer a non-toxic alternative to antibiotics, which have the undesirable side effect …
Andrew Silver, 07 Jul 2017

Astronomers fire up AI algorithms to hunt Milky Way's hot Jupiters

Astronomers have uncovered a potential treasure trove of hot Jupiters, a rare class of exoplanet, in our galaxy. Hot Jupiters are a type of gas giant. They are physically similar to the Jupiter in our Solar System, and stay close to their parent star, completing their orbits in about a week. It is estimated that only one per …
Katyanna Quach, 07 Jul 2017
Tokamak

While USA is distracted by its President's antics, China is busy breaking another fusion record

Chinese boffins say they have smashed yet another world fusion record using their EAST contraption – aka the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak. The experimental fusion system managed to maintain a stable plasma state for 101.2 seconds, with the temperature peaking at 50,000,000 K (90,000,000°F, 50,000,000°C), we're …
Iain Thomson, 06 Jul 2017
Data at wavelength of 0.45 mm, combined from SCUBA and SCUBA-2, in a false-colour image. The Geminga pulsar (inside the black circle) is moving towards the upper left, and the orange dashed arc and cylinder show the 'bow-wave' and a 'wake'. The region shown is 1.3 light-years across; the bow-wave probably stretches further behind Geminga, but SCUBA imaged only the 0.4 light-years in the centre.

'Vicious' neutron star caught collecting dustbunnies

A new study suggests a dangerous, young neutron star could be attracting planet-forming matter around it as it swims through space. The first planets around pulsars were discovered in the early '90s. Astronomers aren't quite sure how planets can form around them because their environments are so inhospitable. Geminga, a …
Andrew Silver, 06 Jul 2017

Boffins with frickin' laser beams chase universe's mysterious trihydrogen

Scientists are getting closer to piecing together the chemical reactions that form trihydrogen, one of the most abundant yet mysterious ions floating around in space. Trihydrogen, H3+, is an important molecule. It is believed that the tiny ion kickstarted a whole chain of reactions that led to the birth of the first stars in …
Katyanna Quach, 06 Jul 2017

RED ALERT! High-speed alien fugitives are invading our Milky Way

Rare hypervelocity stars tearing through the Milky Way galaxy are runaway suns that have escaped neighbouring galaxies, according to research presented at this year’s National Astronomy Meeting in Hull, England. Hypervelocity stars are travelling between 300 and 700 kilometers (186 and 435 miles) per second faster than our …
Katyanna Quach, 06 Jul 2017
THistle, the national flower of scotland, being bothered by a bee. Photo by Shutterstock

Boffins' five eyes surprise: Bees correct colour for ambient light

Camera designers will get to add a technique borrowed from nature to improve how they handle colour, courtesy of the humble honey bee. Boffins at Australia's RMIT University in Melbourne (with colleagues from Monash and Deakin Universities and the University of Melbourne) looked at how honey bees process colour information, …
New MH 370 flaperon drift modelling

MH370 researchers refine their prediction of the place nobody looked

Australian researchers who haven't given up on finding Malaysian Airlines MH 370 have told a conference in Darwin they believe they know where it is likely to be. The flight set off an international mystery when it disappeared in March 2014, presumably crashing into the Indian Ocean. The search that followed cost $180 million …
Funicular Caingorm Mountain Railway photo by David Spooner

Extreme trainspotting on Britain's highest (and windiest) railway

Geek's Guide to Britain The world's highest railway is the Xining-Golmud-Lhasa railway at 5,068m (16,627ft) above sea level and running 815km (506 miles). As much a political piece as a transport corridor, the line was designed to fuse China with Tibet – the country the People's Republic invaded and annexed in 1950. Britain's highest railway is …
David Spooner, 04 Jul 2017
Falcon9

SpaceX halts Intelsat 35e launch twice in a row

SpaceX's current launch, carrying the geosynchronous satellite Intelsat 35e, hasn't got off the ground yet: two launches in a row have been pulled at the last minute. Elon Musk's company is trying to get its third flight up in two weeks, but it's going to have to wait for July 4. The original July 2 launch was scrubbed by the …
NIST's LEGO watt balance

Constant work makes the kilo walk the Planck

While business around the world closed out a financial quarter or a financial year ahead of June 30, US boffins were working to a different deadline: linking the kilogram to electromagnetism. Part of the world of metrology's long project to redefine the world's fundamental measurements, the aim is to define the kilogram in …
asteroid

NASA: Bring on the asteroid, so we can chuck a fridge at it

NASA has okayed one of its save-the-world-from-asteroids proposals to move to the preliminary design phase, on the way to a hoped-for launch early in the 2020s. If it goes ahead, the DART – Double Asteroid Redirection Test – will start with what the space agency describes as “a non-threatening small asteroid”. That way, …
Long March

China pollutes ocean with bloody big rocket

China's latest Long March-5 Y2 the launch has gone awry for reasons not yet made public. The launch took place from a spaceport in Hainan province. The rocket was carrying an experimental satellite, and the 57-metre long booster left the launch site without incident. Youtube Video Shortly afterwards, Xinhua tersely Tweeted …

Sailor Moon? More like sail to the Moon: Japan vows to set foot on lunar soil by 2030

Japan's national space agency JAXA has announced plans to send a lone astronaut to the moon by 2030. It's a big step for Japan, since its astronauts have never set foot in space beyond the International Space Station. The proposal was presented this week during a panel with the country's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports …
Katyanna Quach, 30 Jun 2017

Shock: NASA denies secret child sex slave cannibal colony on Mars

NASA has not enslaved a colony of children on Mars nor is it using them for vile orgies on the Red Planet nor feasting on them to harvest their precious bone marrow, officials have told The Register. We had our doubts, too. Asking the US space agency's spokespeople to confirm or deny the existence of a murderous conspiracy in …
Iain Thomson, 30 Jun 2017
asteroid

Did you know? Today is International Asteroid Day! Wouldn't it be amazing if one were to...

Space scientists and enthusiasts are today celebrating International Asteroid Day – with events in 190 countries and a 24-hour telethon with boffins from NASA, ESA, and JAXA plus assorted celebrities. The date, Friday, June 30, is no accident. It was picked to commemorate the largest meteorite explosion ever recorded in human …
Iain Thomson, 30 Jun 2017
Testing traction control at JPL

NASA tells Curiosity: Quit showing off, no 'wheelies' please

After 18 months of testing, NASA's pushed a patch to the Mars Curiosity Rover – to extend its wheels' life, and eliminate over-exuberant climbs causing “wheelies”. Written by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Jeff Biesiadecki and Olivier Toupet, the software update went live earlier this month, having been uploaded to the …

Talk about cutting-edge technology! Boffins fire world's sharpest laser

A team of physicists claims to have created the world's sharpest laser, with a line width frequency of only 10 millihertz – opening up the possibility of improving the accuracy of optical clocks and radioastronomy experiments. Lasers are, ideally, a concentrated stream of photons at a single frequency. But in reality the light …
Katyanna Quach, 29 Jun 2017

Astroboffins dig into the weird backwards orbit of the Bee-Zed asteroid

Asteroid 2015 BZ509 – also known as Bee-Zed – is the only asteroid in our solar system with a confirmed retrograde orbit lasting 12 years; the same orbital period as Jupiter. The discovery was published in Nature in March by a team of physicists led by Paul Wiegert, a researcher at the University of Western Ontario in Canada. …
Katyanna Quach, 29 Jun 2017
Black holes merging

Ever wondered why the universe only has black holes in S or XXXL? No? Boffins have an answer

Astronomers looking for black holes have been baffled by the same question for decades: we've found large and small holes, but where are all the medium-sized black holes? It’s a mystery that Tal Alexander, a physics professor at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, and Ben Bar-Or, a scholar at the Institute of Advanced …
Katyanna Quach, 27 Jun 2017
NASA's Low Boom Flight Demonstration aircraft

Concorde without the cacophony: NASA thinks it's cracked quiet supersonic flight

NASA says the preliminary design review of its Quiet Supersonic Transport (QueSST) project suggests it is possible to create a supersonic aircraft that doesn't produce a sonic boom. We've been able to build supersonic passenger planes for decades, but they're tricky things. Russia's Tupolev Tu-144 proved highly unreliable. …
Simon Sharwood, 27 Jun 2017

India's Martian MOM clocks up 1,000 days circling the red planet

India's Mars Orbiter Mission – aka MOM – has celebrated its 1,000th Earth day in orbit around the red planet. The probe arrived on November 5, 2013 and last week ticked over into four figures. The mission cost a pittance or, as the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) puts it, MOM “is credited with many laurels like cost- …
Simon Sharwood, 27 Jun 2017

No way to sugarcoat this: I'm afraid Uranus opens and closes to accept particle streams

Scientists digging through old readings from NASA’s Voyager 2 mission in 1986 have found that Uranus’ magnetic field swings open and shut like the aperture of a revolving door. Uranus doesn’t just have a funny name, it has a silly orbit too. It’s the only planet in the Solar System to lie on its side – almost 98˚ from its …
Katyanna Quach, 27 Jun 2017
Blinded me with science

Researchers blind autonomous cars by tricking LIDAR

If you've ever been dazzled by some idiot's high-beam driving towards you at night, you'd probably welcome a self-driving car – except one of the key “eyes”, LIDAR, can also be blinded, or tricked into reacting to objects that aren't there. LIDAR - Light Detection and Ranging - is an important self-driving vehicle technology: …

Researchers solve screen glare nightmare with 'moth-eye' antireflective film

A new anti-glare film could help us see our phones a little bit better on a bright day. "Ambient light is everywhere," says Jiun-Haw Lee, an electrical engineer at National Taiwan University in Taipei. Natural light lowers the contrast of display screens, making them appear much darker. That's because when light from the sun …
Andrew Silver, 26 Jun 2017
SpaceX barge

SpaceX nails two launches and barge landings in one weekend

No matter what you did over the weekend, you'll struggle to top Elon Musk's after his space trucking venture launched 11 satellites atop two rockets, both of which stuck perfect landings on barges. Mission “BulgariaSat-1” kicked off the fun with a Friday launch of a geosynchronous satellite that will improve telecommunications …
Simon Sharwood, 26 Jun 2017
Space, image via shutterstock

NASA? More like NASAI: Brainy robots 'crucial' to space exploration

Autonomous space robots are going to be key to making new discoveries and exploring the furthest reaches of our Solar System and beyond, according to NASA scientists. “By making their own exploration decisions, robotic spacecraft can conduct traditional science investigations more efficiently and even achieve otherwise …
Katyanna Quach, 23 Jun 2017

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