Compare cell phone plans using Wirefly's innovative plan comparison tool ×
Space

NASA Reconnects With 'Lost' STEREO-B Satellite (businessinsider.com) 50

NASA lost contact with its STEREO-B spacecraft twenty-two months ago during a routine 72-hour test. On Sunday, the spacecraft reconnected with NASA roughly 189 million miles away from Earth. While that would seem like a cause for celebration, "the very hard and scary work is just the beginning, says Stereo project scientist Joe Gurman, as the agency has to turn on the computer to learn more about the current state of the spacecraft -- a process that may make the craft lose contact with them again. Slashdot user bongey writes: NASA may have only two minutes or less to fix a STEREO-B satellite before the computer causes it to lose contact again. NASA lost contact with their STEREO-B satellite nearly twenty-two months ago when performing a routine test. NASA scientists are afraid to turn on the computer at this point because it may cause them to lose contact again. A more detailed technical summary can be found here. "We have something like two minutes between when STEREO-B receives the command to boot up one of its computers and when it starts doing what we don't want it to do," Gurman said. Business Insider writes, "Making matters worse, it takes about 20 seconds to send commands to the spacecraft -- a data rate that makes a dial-up modem seem lightning fast."
Mars

NanoRacks Plans To Turn Used Rocket Fuel Tanks Into Space Habitats (ieee.org) 114

An anonymous reader writes from a report via IEEE Spectrum: A couple of weeks ago NASA announced it has committed $65 million to six companies over the course of two years for the purpose of developing and testing deep-space habitats that could be used for future missions to Mars. One of the six companies, called NanoRacks, is attempting to take empty fuel tanks from the upper stages of rockets and turn them into space habitats on-orbit. IEEE Spectrum reports: "A rocket like the the Atlas V, which can deliver payloads of nearly 19,000 kg to low Earth orbit, consists of three primary pieces: on the bottom, you've got the first stage booster, which consists of a huge engine and some big tanks holding kerosene fuel and oxidizer. Above that, there's the second stage, which consists of one or two smaller engines, a big tank for storing liquid hydrogen fuel, and a smaller tank for oxidizer. The payload, which is what all of the fuss is about, sits on top. The first stage launches the rocket off of the pad and continues firing for about four minutes. Meanwhile, the second stage fires up its own engine (or engines) to boost the payload the rest of the way into orbit. On the Atlas V, the second stage is called Centaur. Once Centaur gets its payload where it needs to go, it separates, and then suicides down into Earth's atmosphere. Getting a payload into space is so expensive because you have to build up this huge and complicated rocket, with engines and guidance systems and fuel tanks and stuff, and then you basically use it for like 15 minutes and throw it all away. But what about the second stage? You've got a whole bunch of hardware that made it to orbit, and when getting stuff to orbit costs something like $2,500 per kilogram, you then tell it to go it burn itself up in the atmosphere, because otherwise it's just useless space junk." NanoRacks thinks this is wasteful, so they want to turn these tanks into deep space habitats. IEEE notes that the hydrogen fuel tank on a Centaur upper stage has a diameter of over 4 meters, and an interior volume of 54 cubic meters, while the inflatable BEAM module that arrived at the ISS earlier this year has an interior volume of 16 cubic meters. For more details, IEEE Spectrum spoke with Jeff Manber, CEO of NanoRacks, and Mike Johnson, NanoRacks' Chief Designer. You can read their responses here.
Earth

Every Month This Year Has Been the Hottest In Recorded History (vice.com) 402

Slashdot reader iONiUM quotes an article from Vice that calls attention to the fact that record-setting temperatures in July are just part of the story: On Wednesday, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that July was the hottest month ever recorded on our planet, since modern record-keeping began in 1880. NASA has reached the same conclusion. July smashed all previous records... "We should be absolutely concerned," [NOAA climatologist] Sanchez-Lugo said. "We need to look at ways to adapt and mitigate. If we don't, temperatures will continue to increase"...

But the truth is that record-breaking temperatures, month after month, year after year, are starting to look less like an exception, more like the norm.

In fact, CityLab reports that the earth has now experienced 14 consecutive months of unprecedented hotness. Although July stands out, Vice notes that "each consecutive month in 2016 has broken its own previous record (May was the hottest May, April the hottest April, etc.)..."
Bitcoin

Eleven Reasons To Be Excited About The Future of Technology (medium.com) 282

Chris Dixon, an American internet entrepreneur and investor in a range of tech and media companies including Kickstarter and Foursquare has written an essay on Medium highlighting some of the reasons why we should be excited about the future of technology. The reasons he has listed are as follows: 1. Self-Driving Cars: Self-driving cars exist today that are safer than human-driven cars in most driving conditions. Over the next 3-5 years they'll get even safer, and will begin to go mainstream.
2. Clean Energy: Attempts to fight climate change by reducing the demand for energy haven't worked. Fortunately, scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs have been working hard on the supply side to make clean energy convenient and cost-effective.
3. Virtual and Augmented Reality: Computer processors only recently became fast enough to power comfortable and convincing virtual and augmented reality experiences. Companies like Facebook, Google, Apple, and Microsoft are investing billions of dollars to make VR and AR more immersive, comfortable, and affordable.
4. Drones and Flying Cars: GPS started out as a military technology but is now used to hail taxis, get mapping directions, and hunt Pokemon. Likewise, drones started out as a military technology, but are increasingly being used for a wide range of consumer and commercial applications.
5. Artificial Intelligence: Artificial intelligence has made rapid advances in the last decade, due to new algorithms and massive increases in data collection and computing power.
6. Pocket Supercomputers for Everyone: By 2020, 80% of adults on earth will have an internet-connected smartphone. An iPhone 6 has about 2 billion transistors, roughly 625 times more transistors than a 1995 Intel Pentium computer. Today's smartphones are what used to be considered supercomputers.
7. Cryptocurrencies and Blockchains: Protocols are the plumbing of the internet. Most of the protocols we use today were developed decades ago by academia and government. Since then, protocol development mostly stopped as energy shifted to developing proprietary systems like social networks and messaging apps. Cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies are changing this by providing a new business model for internet protocols. This year alone, hundreds of millions of dollars were raised for a broad range of innovative blockchain-based protocols.
8. High-Quality Online Education: While college tuition skyrockets, anyone with a smartphone can study almost any topic online, accessing educational content that is mostly free and increasingly high-quality.
9. Better Food through Science: Earth is running out of farmable land and fresh water. This is partly because our food production systems are incredibly inefficient. It takes an astounding 1799 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef. Fortunately, a variety of new technologies are being developed to improve our food system.
10. Computerized Medicine: Until recently, computers have only been at the periphery of medicine, used primarily for research and record keeping. Today, the combination of computer science and medicine is leading to a variety of breakthroughs.
11. A New Space Age: Since the beginning of the space age in the 1950s, the vast majority of space funding has come from governments. But that funding has been in decline: for example, NASA's budget dropped from about 4.5% of the federal budget in the 1960s to about 0.5% of the federal budget today.

Earth

NASA: July 2016 Was Earth's Warmest Month On Record (weather.com) 269

mdsolar quotes a report from The Weather Channel: Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), operated by the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), calculated the global average July temperature was nearly one-fifth of a degree Celsius higher than previous July temperature records set in 2015 and in 2009. July was also 0.55 degrees Celsius higher than the July average for 1981-2010. Compared to the July average, the south-central part of the United States including Texas and into northern Mexico were the most anomalously warm for North America. Globally, portions of western Russia and the Southern Ocean were warmest compared to average. In Russia, fires and an anthrax outbreak have been blamed on warmer than average temperatures. Each of the last 12 months has been the warmest on record for their respective months. This is due to a combination of global climate variability and human activity according to C3S. July is typically the warmest month of the year globally because the Northern Hemisphere has more land masses than the Southern Hemisphere. (NASA GISS Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP) confirms today.)
Space

Astronomers To Announce Discovery of a Nearby 'Earth-Like' Planet (seeker.com) 344

astroengine quotes a report from Seeker: Scientists are preparing to unveil a new planet in our galactic neighborhood which is "believed to be Earth-like" and orbits its star at a distance that could favor life, German weekly Der Spiegel reported Friday. The exoplanet orbits a well-investigated star called Proxima Centauri, part of the Alpha Centauri star system, the magazine said, quoting anonymous sources.

"The still nameless planet is believed to be Earth-like and orbits at a distance to Proxima Centauri that could allow it to have liquid water on its surface -- an important requirement for the emergence of life," said the magazine.

It's orbiting our sun's nearest neighboring star -- just 4.25 light years away -- meaning it could someday be considered for the world's first interstellar mission.
Space

Fourth SpaceX Rocket Successfully Landed on A Drone Ship (theverge.com) 71

Saturday a SpaceX rocket completed the company's fourth successful landing at sea (watched by over 100,000 viewers on YouTube and Flickr). Saturday's landing means Elon Musk's company has now recovered more than half the rockets they've launched. An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes Saturday's report from The Verge: Tonight's landing was particularly challenging for SpaceX... The Falcon 9 had to carry its onboard satellite -- called JCSAT-16 -- into...a highly elliptical orbit that takes the satellite 20,000 miles out beyond Earth's surface. Getting to GTO requires a lot of speed and uses up a lot of fuel during take off, more so than getting to lower Earth orbit. That makes things difficult for the rocket landing afterward...there's less fuel leftover for the vehicle to reignite its engines and perform the necessary landing maneuvers.

CEO Elon Musk said the company is aiming to launch its first landed rocket sometime this fall...SpaceX's president, Gwynne Shotwell, estimates that reusing these landed Falcon 9 vehicles will lead to a 30 percent reduction in launch costs.

SpaceX named their drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You."
Space

Maybe There's No Life in Space Because We're Too Early 250

Long-time Slashdot reader sehlat shares "a highly accessible summary" of a new theory about why we haven't yet find life on other planets -- that "we're not latecomers, but very, very early." From Lab News: The universe is 13.8 billion years old, with Earth forming less than five billion years ago. One school of thought among scientists is that there is life billions of years older than us in space. But this recent study in the Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics argues otherwise... "We find that the chance of life grows much higher in the distant future..."

Stars larger than approximately three times the Sun's mass will perish before life has a chance to evolve... The smallest stars weigh less than a tenth as much as the sun and will glow for 10 trillion years, meaning life has lot of time to begin on those planets orbiting them in the 'habitable zone'. The probability of life increases over time so the chance of life is many times higher in the distant future than now.

The paper ultimately concludes that life "is most likely to exist near 0.1 solar-mass stars ten trillion years from now."
The Military

How The Navy Tried To Turn Sharks into Torpedos (undark.org) 60

Long-time Slashdot reader v3rgEz writes: Documents recently declassified show one of the odder experimental weapons developed after World War II: Weaponized sharks. Guided by sharp electric shocks, the sharks were trained to deliver explosive payloads -- essentially turning them into living, breathing, remote-controlled torpedoes that could be put to use in the Pacific Theater.
Following years of research on "shark repellent," the Navy spent 13 years building a special head gear for sharks which sensed the shark's direction and tried to deliver shocks if the sharks strayed off-course. The journalist who tracked down details of "Project Headgear" published the recently-declassified information on MIT's journalism site Undark, noting that "The shark wasn't so much a 'torpedo' as a suicide bomber... "
NASA

Venus May Have Been Habitable, Says NASA (sciencedaily.com) 211

EzInKy writes: Science Daily has an article speculating that Venus may have been habitable which is suggested by NASA climate modeling, which proposes that Venus may have had a shallow liquid-water ocean and habitable surface temperatures for up to two billion years of its early history. Talk about global climate change run amok. Venus may represent a near Earth example of what is in store for the future of our world if we don't make it a number one priority to address. Science Daily reports: "Venus today is a hellish world. It has a crushing carbon dioxide atmosphere 90 times as thick as Earth's. There is almost no water vapor. Temperatures reach 864 degrees Fahrenheit (462 degrees Celsius) at its surface. Scientists have long theorized that Venus formed out of ingredients similar to Earth's, but followed a different evolutionary path. Measurements by NASA's Pioneer mission to Venus in the 1980s first suggested Venus originally may have had an ocean. However, Venus is closer to the sun than Earth and receives far more sunlight. As a result, the planet's early ocean evaporated, water-vapor molecules were broken apart by ultraviolet radiation, and hydrogen escaped to space. With no water left on the surface, carbon dioxide built up in the atmosphere, leading to a so-called runaway greenhouse effect that created present conditions."
Earth

Perseid Meteor Shower Peaks Tonight With Up To 200 Meteors Per Hour (latimes.com) 62

The Perseid meteor shower happens ever year in August, but this year it will be especially spectacular with twice as many shooting stars streaking across the night sky. Los Angeles Times reports: "In past years, stargazers would have seen up to one meteor each minute, on average, in a very dark sky. But this year, there's even more reason to stay up late or crawl out of bed in the middle of the night. 'We're expecting 160 to 200 meteors per hour,' said Bill Cooke, head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office. This year's 'outburst' of shooting stars was set into motion more than a year ago, when Jupiter passed closer than usual to the stream of dusty debris left in the wake of the comet Swift-Tuttle. Jupiter's gravity field tugged a large clump of the tiny particles closer to Earth's eventual path. These intense displays happen once a decade or so, Cooke said. The next one won't be until 2027 or 2028." The best viewing experience will be away from the city. Since it takes roughly 30-45 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darkness, it's recommended you don't pull out your smartphone or excessively shine your flashlight around. The Los Angeles Times has a neat infographic of the Perseid meteor shower.
Mars

NASA Awards Companies $65 Million To Develop Habitats For Deep Space (techcrunch.com) 88

An anonymous reader writes from a report via TechCrunch: NASA has committed $65 million to six companies over the course of two years for the purpose of developing and testing deep-space habitats that could be used for future missions to Mars. TechCrunch reports: "It's part of the organization's NEXTStep, an ongoing partnership program under NASA's Advanced Exploration Systems that funds private research into technology for space exploration. Last year's NEXTStep contracts were for a variety of things, but this year they're all on the same track: "deep space habitats where humans will live and work independently for months or years at a time, without cargo supply deliveries from Earth." The lucky companies are all taking slightly different approaches to the problem of deep space habitation." The six companies include Bigelow Aerospace, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK, Sierra Nevada Corporation's Space Systems and NanoRacks.
Mars

NASA Publishes a Thousand Photos of Mars (engadget.com) 62

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Engadget: NASA has released a huge number of high-resolution photos of Mars captured from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's HiRise camera, which has been capturing images of the planet since 2005. The latest dump consists of over a thousand images that can familiarize you with the red planet's many craters, impact sites, dunes, mountains, ice caps and other features. You can view every single photo captured on HiRise's official website. Popular Science mentions that every 26 months or so, Mars and the sun are on the opposite sides of the Earth, allowing MRO to transmit a massive amount of photos from the planet's surface.
Earth

Earth's Resources Used Up at Quickest Rate Ever in 2016 (france24.com) 323

An anonymous reader writes: In just over seven months, humanity has used up a full year's allotment of natural resources such as water, food and clean air -- the quickest rate yet, according to a new report. The point of "overshoot" will officially be reached on Monday, said environmental group Global Footprint Network -- five days earlier than last year. "We continue to grow our ecological debt," said Pascal Canfin of green group WWF, reacting to the annual update. "From Monday August 8, we will be living on credit because in eight months we would have consumed the natural capital that our planet can renew in a year."
Earth

Being Lazy Is a Sign of High Intelligence, Study Suggests (independent.co.uk) 254

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Independent: Findings from a U.S.-based study seem to support the idea that people with a high IQ get bored less easily, leading them to spend more time engaged in thought. And active people may be more physical as they need to stimulate their minds with external activities, either to escape their thoughts or because they get bored quickly. Researchers from the Florida Gulf Coast University gave a classic test -- dating back three decades -- to a group of students. The 'need for cognition' questionnaire asked participants to rate how strongly they agree with statements such as "I really enjoy a task that involves coming up with new solutions to problems," and "I only think as hard as I have to." The researchers, led by Todd McElroy, then selected 30 'thinkers' and 30 'non-thinkers' from the pool of candidates. Over the next seven days both groups wore a device on their wrist which tracked their movements and activity levels, providing a constant stream of data on how physically active they were. Results showed the thinking group were far less active during the week than the non-thinkers. "Ultimately, an important factor that may help more thoughtful individuals combat their lower average activity levels is awareness," said McElroy, according to The British Psychological Society. "Awareness of their tendency to be less active, coupled with an awareness of the cost associated with inactivity, more thoughtful people may then choose to become more active throughout the day."
Earth

Florida District Considers Releasing GMO Mosquitos After Cayman Islands Experiment (accuweather.com) 144

It's already underway just 364 miles south of Florida, according to the Associated Press. "The first wave of genetically modified mosquitoes were released Wednesday in the Cayman Islands as part of a new effort to control the insect that spreads Zika and other viruses," according to an article shared by Slashdot reader Okian Warrior: Genetically altered male mosquitoes, which don't bite but are expected to mate with females to produce offspring that die before reaching adulthood, were released in the West Bay area of Grand Cayman Island, according to a joint statement from the Cayman Islands Mosquito Research and Control Unit and British biotech firm Oxitec.
"What could possibly go wrong?" asks The Atlantic, citing history's great pest-control fails in Hawaii and Australia. But a similar release is already being considered in the Florida Keys, though Accuweather reports it apparently depends on the results of a November referendum which could also "affect the likelihood of Oxitec trials taking place in other parts of the United States."
Moon

North Korea Hopes To Plant Flag On The Moon Within 10 Years (ap.org) 215

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Associated Press: In an interview with The Associated Press, a senior official at North Korea's version of NASA said international sanctions won't stop the country from launching more satellites by 2020, and that he hopes to see the North Korean flag on the moon within the next 10 years. "Even though the U.S. and its allies try to block our space development, our aerospace scientists will conquer space and definitely plant the flag of the DPRK on the moon," said Hyon Kwang Il, director of the scientific research department of North Korea's National Aerospace Development Administration. An unmanned, no-frills North Korean moon mission in the not-too-distant future isn't as far-fetched as it might seem. Outside experts say it's ambitious, but conceivable. While the U.S. is the only country to have conducted manned lunar missions, other nations have sent unmanned spacecraft there and have in that sense planted their flags. Hyon said the current five-year plan, at the order of leader Kim Jong Un, focuses on launching more Earth observation satellites and what would be its first geostationary communications satellite -- which, technologically, would be a major step forward. He said universities are also expanding programs to train rocket scientists. "We are planning to develop the Earth observation satellites and to solve communications problems by developing geostationary satellites. All of this work will be the basis for the flight to the moon," Hyon said on July 28, adding that he personally would like to see that happen "within 10 years' time." Meanwhile, North Korea's southern neighbors are planning a similar mission to place a probe in orbit around the moon and a small lander and rover on the surface of the moon by 2020.
Moon

Moon Express Gets FAA Approval For Lunar Mission In 2017 (networkworld.com) 55

coondoggie quotes a report from Network World: The Federal Aviation Administration this week granted permission to a privately-held space firm to launch a robotic spacecraft to the moon. Moon Express expects to launch its MX-1 spacecraft on a two-week mission to the lunar surface in 2017. The MX-1, which is about as large as a suitcase will include instruments and a camera to explore the moon's surface. Moon Express has a contract with Rocket Lab USA for 3 lunar missions between 2017 and 2020. They are the first private company to receive permission to go to the moon. "Moon Express applauds efforts underway by the U.S. Congress and Executive Branch to establish a permanent regulatory framework to authorize commercial activities beyond Earth orbit," said Moon Express cofounder and CEO Bob Richards. "Our 'Mission Approval' process is an interim arrangement that can be implemented quickly enough for our 2017 launch requirements, allowing us to continue to execute on our business plans under U.S. law while ensuring our activities are consistent with U.S. obligations under the Outer Space Treaty."
Privacy

Millennials Are Less Likely To Be Having Sex Than Young Adults 30 Years Ago, Says Survey (theguardian.com) 643

An anonymous reader writes: A survey of nearly 27,000 people suggests that millennials are less likely to be having sex than younger adults were 30 years ago. The Guardian reports: "The research, conducted in the U.S., found that the percentage of young adults aged between 20 and 24 who reported having no sexual partner after the age of 18 increased from 6% among those born in the 1960s, to 15% of young adults born in the 1990s. Published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior by researchers from three U.S. universities, the study involved the analysis of data collected through the nationwide General Social Survey that has asked U.S. adults about their sexual behavior almost every year since 1989. The results reveal that young adults aged between 20 and 24 and born in the 1990s were more than twice as likely to report that they had had no sexual partners since the age of 18 than young adults of the same age born in the 1960s. Just over 15% of the 90s-born group reported that they had not had sex since they turned 18, compared to almost 12% of those born in the 1970s or 1980s. For those born in the 60s the figure was just over 6%. The shift [towards increasing abstinence seen among all adults since the 1960s] was greater for white individuals, those who had not gone to university, and those who attended religious services. The trend was also greater for women than for men: the authors found that 2.3% of women born in the 1960s are sexually inactive, compared to 5.4% of those born in the 1990s. That, the authors suggest, could in part be down to a rise in so-called virginity pledges as well as concerns about social stigma. As for why this is the case, the authors of the study suggest it could have something to do with the fact that young people are living at home for longer, thus "stifling their sex life," and playing video games and consuming media in their free time. In addition, easy access to pornography may also be playing a role. A co-author of the research, Ryne Sherman, also suggests another factor could be that the way in which people interpret questions asked in the survey has changed. "Young people in the 1950s, when they were asked if you had a sexual partner, [might] say 'oh oral sex, that counts,' whereas young people today might say 'oh no that doesn't count because I didn't actually have sexual intercourse,'" he said.
Power

New Solar Cells Can Convert CO2 Into Hydrocarbon Fuel (nextbigfuture.com) 195

"Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have engineered a potentially game-changing solar cell that cheaply and efficiently converts atmospheric carbon dioxide directly into usable hydrocarbon fuel, using only sunlight for energy," reports Next Big Future. Slashdot reader William Robinson writes: This artificial leaf delivers syngas, or synthesis gas, a mixture of hydrogen gas and carbon monoxide. Syngas can be burned directly, or converted into diesel or other hydrocarbon fuels. The discovery opens up possibilities of clean reusable energy.
"A solar farm of such 'artificial leaves' could remove significant amounts of carbon from the atmosphere and produce energy-dense fuel efficiently..." according to the article, which adds that the process could prove useful in the high-carbon atmosphere of Mars. "Unlike conventional solar cells, which convert sunlight into electricity that must be stored in heavy batteries, the new device essentially does the work of plants, converting atmospheric carbon dioxide into fuel, solving two crucial problems at once."

Slashdot Top Deals