Can the Moon Make an Earthquake Worse?

By Nathaniel Scharping | September 12, 2016 4:13 pm
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(Credit: Danshutter/Shutterstock)

When an earthquake occurs, it represents the release of years, sometimes decades or centuries, of pent-up stress. Somewhere along the fault line, a section of rock can take the strain no longer and gives way, allowing a tectonic plate to jerk into motion in a series of spasmodic shudders.

The factors that determine when, where and why earthquakes happen are numerous, and we’re still a long way from figuring out how to reliably predict them. But, it turns out that one of the many small stresses leading up to an earthquake may be extraterrestrial. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, top posts

Why This 12-Dot Illusion Is Giving People Fits

By Carl Engelking | September 12, 2016 2:40 pm
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(Credit: Jacques Ninio)

With one Facebook post, Japanese psychology professor Akiyoshi Kitaoka has sent the internet into fits.

Look at the image above, and try to see all 12 black dots at once. Good luck. Honest, we aren’t playing tricks on you. Your eyes are literally deceiving you.

Kitaoka posted this image on Sunday, which has since been shared over 10,000 times, and got a further viral boost when video game developer Will Kerslake shared the image on his Twitter page, and it quickly appeared on Reddit. Now, we’re all hopelessly chasing black dots. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, top posts

Jeff Bezos’s Bigger, Badder Rocket Named After John Glenn

By Nathaniel Scharping | September 12, 2016 11:39 am
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(Credit: Blue Origin)

Blue Origin on Monday announced it’s adding a bigger, badder addition to its future stable of reusable rocket boosters.

The spacecraft, dubbed the New Glenn, is designed to provide the lift for missions into low Earth orbit and beyond, and comes in both two- and three-stage variants — the largest of the two will stand 313 feet tall. The first launch planned for the end of this decade, according to an email sent out Monday by Blue Origin CEO and Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos.

The rocket builds on the success of the company’s New Shepard booster, which has now completed four trips to the edge of space and back, showcasing the upright landings that have become a staple of the modern-day space race. Read More

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

How to Read a Closed Book

By Carl Engelking | September 9, 2016 4:27 pm
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A researcher tests out the new terahertz imaging system. (Credit: Courtesy Barmak Heshmat)

You still can’t judge a book by its cover, but it’s possible to read one without ever opening it.

That certainly adds a new wrinkle to an age-old idiom.

But it’s true; researchers at MIT and Georgia Tech built a prototype — key word prototype — imaging system that can read individual pages in a stack of papers. It’s an early demonstration, so we’re talking a stack of only nine pages, but it’s a start.

And as the technology improves, it could someday give, say, museum curators, another tool to study ancient, fragile books they wouldn’t dare open. Read More

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

OSIRIS-REx Is Headed for an Asteroid Encounter, Following ‘Perfect’ Launch

By Nola Taylor Redd | September 9, 2016 2:52 pm
Liftoff! (Credit: NASA)

Liftoff! (Credit: NASA)

Smoke and fire covered the ground as the NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission launched into space. Blasting out of Earth’s orbit on Thursday, the mission begins its two-year journey to sample an asteroid. It will be seven long years before the spacecraft returns home, dropping its bounty into the Utah desert. Along the way, it will map an asteroid in depth and help scientists better understand the secrets of the early universe. Read More

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

Google DeepMind’s WaveNet AI Sounds Human, Rocks the Piano

By Carl Engelking | September 9, 2016 2:34 pm
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(Credit: Shutterstock)

Google’s DeepMind brought us artificial intelligence systems that can play Atari classics and the complex game of Go as well as — no, better than — humans.

Now, the artificial intelligence research firm is at it again. This time, its machines are getting really good at sounding like humans.

In a blog post Thursday, DeepMind unveiled WaveNet, an artificial intelligence system that the company says outperforms existing text-to-speech technologies by 50 percent. WaveNet learns from raw audio files and then produces digital sound waves that resemble those produced by the human voice, which is an entirely different approach. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts

Oldest Manuscript in the Americas Confirmed

By Nathaniel Scharping | September 8, 2016 3:31 pm
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A detail of an image from page 4 of the Grolier Codex with red underpainting visible. (Credit: Justin Kerr)

The Grolier Codex, a much-disputed Maya manuscript, is indeed the real deal, which makes it the oldest book discovered in the Americas.

A team led by a researcher from Brown University performed a comprehensive analysis of the Grolier Codex, a collection of 11 sheets of bark paper discovered in 1965 in a cave in Chiapas, Mexico. They say that a number of factors point to the pages being authentic, putting to rest a debate that has gone on for over four decades.  Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: archaeology

Found: Philae’s Final Resting Place

By Nicole Kiefert | September 7, 2016 2:19 pm
(Credit: ESA)

(Credit: ESA)

After not knowing the exact location of the Philae lander for almost two years, the cameras on the European Space Agency’s Rosetta orbiter picked up images on Friday of Philae tucked into a crack on Comet 67-P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Philae was attached to Rosetta during its 10-year journey through space to catch up to the comet and was released to touch down in November 2014, making it the first spacecraft to land on a comet. It sent data to Earth for three days before its battery died, causing Philae to go into hibernation. When the comet came closer to the sun, though, it helped charge it enough to communicate with Rosetta briefly in 2015. Read More

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

3-for-1 Fossil Find a Windfall for Paleontologists

By Nathaniel Scharping | September 7, 2016 1:12 pm
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An image from the study showing the juvenile snake that ate a lizard that ate an insect. The arrow points to tip of the lizard’s snout. (Credit: Krister T. Smith)

It’s not often that paleontologists uncover a fossil that reveals what its dinner ate for dinner.

Working in Germany’s Messel Pit, a prehistoric volcanic lake, researchers found an insect inside of a lizard inside of a snake (a snalizect?), all preserved for posterity in ancient sediment. It’s essentially a prehistoric turducken, although not one you’re likely to serve up at Thanksgiving dinner.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

To Make A More Efficient Engine, Just Add Water

By Nathaniel Scharping | September 6, 2016 3:54 pm
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(Credit: Kalabi Yau/Shutterstock)

The internal combustion engine has always been a work in progress. Ever since we first began putting them in cars over a century ago, engineers have come up with ever more complex ways of wringing more horsepower and greater fuel efficiency from them. One company says it’s found a surprising means of making our engines even more efficient: Just add water. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology
MORE ABOUT: transportation
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