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Out There

Alan Stern on Pluto’s Wonders, New Horizons’ Lost Twin, and That Whole "Dwarf Planet" Thing

By Corey S. Powell | March 29, 2015 6:46 pm

You don’t have to wonder what is on Alan Stern’s mind. The planetary scientist and former NASA associate administrator is a relentless champion of all things Pluto; he is both the principal investigator and the prime mover behind the New Horizons mission, which will fly past Pluto and its moons this July 14. In advance of the encounter, Stern’s passion is building to a white heat, and he is letting everyone know it.

The excitement is infectious. Pluto is looking far more interesting than  …

An illustration of from Google's approved patent on pedestrian airbag technology for self-driving cars. Credit: Google / U.S. Patent 8,985,652 B1

Lovesick Cyborg

Google's Pedestrian Airbag Aims to Deflate Robot Car Fears

By Jeremy Hsu | March 28, 2015 10:15 pm

Google knows that cuddly car faces may not be enough to get humans to trust their lives with robot cars on the roads. That’s why the technology giant’s plan for self-driving cars may include external airbags to protect pedestrians in case of an accident. But Google’s new patent on pedestrian airbags may reflect more about soothing human fears than actually expecting such airbags to save a significant number of lives in a future filled with driverless vehicles.

The Google patent on  …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: technology, top posts, Uncategorized

Neuroskeptic

The World at 7 PM: A Survey of Everyday Life

By Neuroskeptic | March 28, 2015 8:35 am

In the Journal of Personality, a new study reports on the uniformity of human experience around the globe: The World at 7: Comparing the Experience of Situations Across 20 Countries

The research was an online survey of a total of 5447 people. Each participant was asked to think about what happened the previous evening at 7 pm. Then they were asked to describe the 7 pm scene by means of 89 statements (descriptors), which included things like: “Rational thinking is called for.”, “Situation ra …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: papers, select, selfreport, surveys, Top Posts

Science Sushi

Venom As Medicine Won't Solve The Lionfish Invasion

By Christie Wilcox | March 28, 2015 6:18 am

The lionfish eating their way through the Atlantic and Caribbean are among the worst marine invasive species to date. Anything we can do to limit their populations is a step in the right direction, thus it’s not surprising that some are getting creative when it comes to control. One of the most common questions I receive goes like this: What if there’s something worthwhile in their venom? Could we convince people to hunt them in droves if we can find a medical use for their spines?

It sur …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: More Science, select, Top Posts

Out There

In Praise of NASA's Ambitious Asteroid Grab

By Corey S. Powell | March 27, 2015 6:38 pm

If you pay attention to news about space exploration, you may have seen some skeptical stories about NASA’s proposed Asteroid Redirect Mission. (And even if you don’t follow such things, you might well have been dismayed by headlines announcing a “less ambitious asteroid mission” that is “unlikely to get funded.”) This is not another one of them.

I think the asteroid mission is a cool idea, and an important one. I think it will advance the cause of space exploration in several meaningful  …

MORE ABOUT: Apollo, ARM, asteroid, SLS

ImaGeo

Antarctic Ice Shelves are Thinning Rapidly — and the Losses are Accelerating in West Antarctica

By Tom Yulsman | March 27, 2015 1:50 pm

Yesterday, I posted a story about the Halley Research Station on Antarctica’s Brunt Ice Shelf. I titled it a “Winter Postcard from Antarctica,” and it included photos and comments about life at the station from Tom Welsh, the wintertime manager there.

Well, I was so busy putting that post together that I missed the big news yesterday about Antarctic ice shelves in general: They are thinning faster than previously thought.

This is a big deal because these ice shelves act like dams tha …

Expedition 43 Soyuz Rollout

D-brief

Watch Live as Scott Kelly Embarks on a Year-Long Mission to Space

By Carl Engelking | March 27, 2015 1:42 pm

NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly’s bags are packed, and as we write this he’s strapped into the Russian Soyuz-TMA-16M spacecraft preparing for liftoff.

The launch is scheduled to occur at 3:42 EDT, and you can watch it all unfold right here.

After liftoff, Kelly will board the International Space Station along with Russian Cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko where both men will spend a full year in zero-gravity. Kelly’s twin brother, Mark, will stay back at home. Over the course of the year …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: space exploration

Drone 360

Drone Delivery Services Are Booming In China

By Carl Engelking | March 27, 2015 12:39 pm

While companies like Amazon are chomping at the bit to launch drone delivery services in the United States, packages are already soaring through the air in China.

Two years ago, residents in the city of Dongguang spotted experimental SF Express-branded delivery drones hovering overhead with packages in tow. SF Express is the country’s largest mail carrier, and it presently delivers roughly 500 packages a day via drone. Now, the company says it plans to expand its services and double the …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Top Posts

D-brief

Rare, Adorable Pika Photographed For First Time in Decades

By Carl Engelking | March 27, 2015 12:25 pm

If you went out searching for the Ili pika in the moutains of China, odds are your search would be fruitless. And that’s a darn shame.

Seriously, look at that cuddly distant relative of the rabbit.

Sadly, Ili pikas are “vulnerable to extinction” according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and as such, no one has seen the little critters for two decades. But last July, Li Weidong, the man who discovered the creatures in 1983, was reacquainted with an old fuzzy f …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

D-brief

Why Cold Cities Have More Exploding Manhole Covers

By Carl Engelking | March 27, 2015 11:24 am

In cold-weather cities in the U.S., slush, snow and wind aren’t the only inconveniences to contend with when the temperature drops; there’s also this small matter of exploding manholes.

Public works officials in New York City have fielded thousands of blown manhole reports throughout late 2014 and into this year, and crews in Indianapolis, weeks before hosting the Final Four, just installed locking manhole covers after two explosions were reported in highly trafficked areas. Similar s …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts
MORE ABOUT: energy, physics
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