With a crucial test flight of its Falcon 9 rocket and an unmanned Dragon capsule slated for later this month, commercial space outfit SpaceX is nearing the crescendo of its unmanned space launch program--a robotic rendezvous with the International Space Station. Next up for SpaceX: doing the exact same thing, but this time delivering humans rather than cargo into orbit.
Each time NASA gets a new budget from Congress, a recurring debate takes a spin through a media cycle or two. At its simplest this conflict of opinion is a split between people who think Americans give NASA too much money and those who think it's not enough. There are the more nuanced arguments too, those that hinge on specific line items and whether or not a specific program or ambition is worth it (or not worth it). But all the noise can largely be distilled into a question that looms ever larger in the current age of austerity: is what we're getting out of NASA worth what we're putting in? Is space science a good investment?
Manuel Cebrian and his team just won the Tag Challenge, a State Department-sponsored competition to find five fake jewel thieves in five countries within 12 hours. Team Crowdscanner featured some of the same people who won DARPA's Network Challenge, a strange hunt for red balloons placed around the country.
The path to a better internet begins with engineers rethinking its networks. It might be the only way to keep it free
By Andrew BlumPosted 04.03.2012 at 10:07 am 8 Comments
When the soon-to-be-defunct government of president Hosni Mubarak shut off Egypt's Internet early on the morning of January 28, 2011, it proved the U.S. State Department's working theory: that the arc of history bends toward democracy, but it needs Internet access to get there. One project meant to ensure what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calls "the freedom to connect" is an "Internet-in-a-suitcase," a kit of wireless routers and software that could be smuggled into an authoritarian country and allow revolutionaries to set up their own local area network (LAN) on the fly.
A little more than a decade from now, one of the world's great arid plains will become a bustling intersection of high-resolution astronomy and high-powered computing. Scrub land in either South Africa or Australia will host the biggest telescope ever, the Square Kilometer Array (SKA), designed to listen to the oldest birth pangs of the universe. And the brains of the operation will likely be the world's most powerful supercomputer.
It is astonishing how soon and unexpectedly flowers appear, when the fields are scarcely tinged with green. Yesterday, for instance, you observed only the radical leaves of some plants; to-day you pluck a flower.
—Henry David Thoreau
In science as in anything else, history and tradition can be powerful teachers. So here's a vivid lesson: Today, flowers and trees are awakening much earlier than they did 150 years ago, and there's proof in the journals of Henry David Thoreau.
Thoreau, best known for authoring "Walden," was a prolific chronicler and admirer of nature. He kept detailed logs describing the first days when a plant or a tree flowered, which are now being used to document the changing face of Concord, Mass., as the earth grows warmer. Boston University botanist Richard Primack and National Park Service scientist Abe Miller-Rushing have spent a decade comparing Thoreau's observations with their own.
It's been nearly a year since the beginning of a bloody uprising in Syria that has taken thousands of lives, both military and civilian. Just how many? Depends on whom you ask.
A trustworthy death toll is needed, to place the conflict in context, and document the crisis for present and future reckoning. But accounting for the dead has been difficult, due to a lock-tight government crackdown, ongoing violence and even political ideology. A collection of volunteer groups is trying to bring clarity to the conflict, however. By combining social media and crowdsourced data with automation and algorithms, Syrian casualty trackers are moving toward the realm of activist data mining.
These elite nuclear divers are risking their lives to help save a troubled industry.
By David GoodwilliePosted 03.27.2012 at 11:10 am 31 Comments
I first heard about nuclear diving while I was getting my hair cut in downtown Manhattan. My stylist seemed out of place in an East Village salon, so I asked her where she lived. Brooklyn? Queens? Uptown?
“Upstate,” she answered. “I commute two hours each way a few times a week.”
I asked her why, and she stopped cutting.
“Well, my husband has kind of a weird job,” she said. “He’d rather not live around other people.”
The notion of a person flying like a bird has universal and enduring appeal, so it's not surprising that the "Human Bird Wings" video from "Jarno Smeets" went viral within a few days. However, now that it has been revealed to be an elaborate hoax, eight months in the making, and now that our dreams have been thusly dashed, let's examine a scientific red flag in the video, one that when pursued bursts the entire fantastical premise: the problem of speed. Watch the video: He really isn't moving very fast when he lifts up off the ground, so it doesn't look quite right. Let's analyze that.
The idea that Canadian sommellier François Chartier presents in his book Taste Buds and Molecules: The Art and Science of Food, Wine, and Flavor is a very intriguing one. Look at the aroma molecules that give foods and wines their characters, he says, and use that as a basis for pairing foods with wines and with each other. Instead of years of tastings and trial and error, a few simple principles and charts can guarantee exquisite pairings every time.
Intriguing idea, yes; but the author sets it out in a hodgepodge of details with a diaphanous veneer of science, direly lacking the clear explanations of cause and effect that would make it truly useful.