Posts

September 19, 2014

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5:45 PM | Mousetronauts To Live In Space For the Longest Stretch Yet
Mouse in Space! Not really: This lab mouse is posing on a model spacecraft. NASA Among the 2.5 tons of cargo that's set to go up to the International Space Station this weekend, there will be five mice with a particular genetic mutation. The mice lack a gene that normal mice have, called Muscle Ring Finger 1, or MuRF-1 (rhymes with Smurf). Scientists are hoping the missing gene will keep those mice healthier in space than their five ordinary compatriots that will be […]

September 18, 2014

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1:00 PM | Pop Culture Mentions Of Global Warming Have Plummeted Since 2007
We Don't Talk About That Anymore Since about 2007, American pop culture has stopped talking about climate change -- at least in TV shows and movies. That's according to a new analysis of mentions of the words "global warming" and "climate change" in the two mediums since 1980. See: Mentions of 'Global Warming' and 'Climate Change' in 87,000 Movies and TV Shows, Over Time Graph created with Bookworm: Movies. Click here to see this image larger. The analysis […]

September 17, 2014

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7:15 PM | Help Scientists By Marking Penguins In Pictures
Mark Those Birds! Zooniverse Penguin Watch Check out this latest citizen-science project. It's a site where you can look at photos gathered by an Antarctic network of wildlife cameras and mark if there are penguins in the photos. In other weo you get to look at cute animals online and help environmental science! Sounds like a win-win to me. A warning: When I went to try the site, the first photo I got showed an overwhelming number of penguins. After all, penguins often […]
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6:30 PM | Spooky Action In Threes: Physicists Entangle Three Particles Of Light
Weird Light This is the University of Waterloo lab where a team of physicists conducted their photon entanglement experiments. It's kept dark to help the equipment sense small amounts of light. Shalm/NIST As if it weren't hard enough already to imagine it in twos, physicists have entangled three photons with each other. Entanglement is a counterintuitive quantum physics phenomenon, in which a particle influences all the others with which it's entangled -- even if […]

September 16, 2014

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7:00 PM | A New 'Radar Gun' May Spot Drivers Who Text Behind The Wheel
Radar Speed Gun at Work at a Naval Base, 2006 Photo by the U.S. Department of Defense. See it at the U.S. National Archives. ComSonics, a company specializing in cable leakage detection, is working on a device that would sense when drivers are texting, the Virginian-Pilot reports. The Virginia newspaper suggests the final product, designed for police to use, might look something like the "radar gun" gadgets that police currently use to log drivers' […]
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4:15 PM | Google vs The DMV: How To Test A Self-Driving Car
View from Google's 2012 Driving Test Nevada DMV In May 2012, Google's self-driving car underwent a classic American teenage ritual. It took a driving test at a DMV. The car passed, but apparently not without a little lobbying from its parent. As state officials have monitored the robot car's mileage on public roads, Google has lobbied for the car to get different tests and to report different accident figures than the DMV wants, a new series of reports finds. The reports […]

September 15, 2014

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9:15 PM | How It Works: A Flexible, Pneumatic Robot Snake
Your Tentacle Friend Screenshot from "CSAIL Robotic Arm Slithers Like A Snake Through Pipes" by MITCSAIL on YouTube So Gizmodo found this morning a seafoam-green, pneumatic, snake/tentacle robot that's able to wiggle its way through a simple, walled maze. Let's take a look: Yep, that's impressive. But what is this for, exactly? And how does it work? The robot's makers, a team of computer scientists from MIT, wrote up a paper that explains. Researchers that build soft […]
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6:15 PM | Fast-Running Robot Cheetah Let Off Its Leash
The MIT Cheetah Robot Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT, CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 It bounds just like a rabbit, but it's not quite as cute. Check out the latest iteration of MIT's Cheetah robot. It's just received an algorithm update that allows it to run by itself on grassy terrain: The robot is now able to run, untethered, up to 10 miles per hour on a treadmill indoors, its makers report. It can also jump over short obstacles and continue running. This lab previously showed its Cheetah […]

September 10, 2014

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10:30 PM | First-Ever Human Trial Of An Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Treatment Set To Begin
Human Eye Cassi Saari A Japanese patient with severe eye disease is set to become the first person to be treated with induced pluripotent stem cells, Nature News reports. Cells of this type have been considered promising for future treatments since their creation eight years ago, which was itself a milestone. This human test is set to be a historic moment in biotechnology. It's also an anxious one. Stem cell therapies carry the risk of creating tumors, although Nature […]
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8:47 PM | Adaptive, Programmable Headlights Cut Through Rain, Illuminate Without Blinding Other Drivers
Prototype Headlight at Work The headlight senses oncoming cars and automatically dims beams of light reaching those cars' drivers' eyes. Carnegie Mellon University This is perhaps the only optical illusion you would want to see while you're driving. A team of university engineers has created a vehicle headlight that adjusts itself so that drivers can keep their high beams on even when other cars are coming toward them. To the driver, the light still looks […]
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5:00 PM | Enormous Carbon Capture Project Begins Construction In Texas
The W. A. Parish Power Plant, where the Petra Nova system will be added Roy Luck on Flickr, CC BY 2.0 What will eventually be the world's largest carbon capture facility has started construction near Houston, Texas. The Petra Nova system will collect carbon dioxide leaving an existing coal plant by spritzing the plant's exhaust with a chemical solvent. The purified carbon dioxide then gets compressed into a liquid and piped 80 miles away to an active oil field. Once there, […]
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2:00 PM | Meet Germanene, Graphene's Newest 2-D Competitor
Under the Microscope A scanning tunneling microscope image of germanene M. E. Dávila et al., New Journal of Physics, 2014 Guy Le Lay says he's working his way down the periodic table. In 2012, he was the senior scientist on a research team that was the first to prove it had created silicene, a one-atom-thick array of silicon atoms. Silicene is the silicon equivalent of graphene, which is a flat array of carbon atoms with a number of potential applications in […]

September 09, 2014

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6:00 PM | Print, Assemble, Drive: The 3-D Printed Plastic Car
Design for the 3-D Printed Strati Car Local Motors on Instagram In a convention center in Chicago, there's a living-room-sized 3-D printer that's just finished printing the parts for a driveable plastic car. The engineers working on the car -- including those involved in developing the plastic, the printer, and the car design -- are hoping to have something ready to drive off the premises by the end of the week. Here's a Vine of the car print, made by Local Motors, one of […]
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3:00 PM | NIH Lab Search Yields 100-Year-Old Ricin Sample
Biological samples in a freezer. Nick Smith/ALSPAC via Wikimedia Commons Remember last week when the U.S. National Institutes of Health asked American scientists, "Pls check yer vials!"? (We're paraphrasing.) Apparently, the agency has taken its own advice to heart. In a search of its own facilities, they found forgotten bottles containing ricin--a potent poison--as well as vials of organisms that cause botulism, plague and other illnesses, the Associated Press reports. […]

September 08, 2014

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7:30 PM | 'Primordial Soup' Computer Model Tracks The Beginning Of Life At The Atomic Level
Pre-Biotic Days This artist's conception of a young, pre-biotic planet shows liquids pooling at the base of rocks. NASA/JPL-Caltech In the early 1950s, a chemist named Stanley Miller mixed up a bunch of gases including methane, ammonia and hydrogen. That's kind of stuff that had been on Earth before life began. Miller zapped those gases with electricity, mimicking the lightning that would have also been abundant on an early Earth. After the zap, Miller found […]
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3:20 PM | Fall Into A Trance Watching This Pendulum Wave Of Bowling Balls
Happy Monday! How about some simple physics to get your day started? We very much enjoyed this video, posted yesterday, of a giant outdoor DIY pendulum toy made with bowling balls. The toy even makes music, via pipes mounted in the ground. Cute! The structure works just like smaller pendulum wave toys. Each bowling ball's string is a slightly different length, with the shortest string mounted at one end of the series, the next-shortest string mounted next to it, and so on until the longest […]

September 04, 2014

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1:00 PM | Google To Make Its Own Quantum Processors
Refrigerator for a Quantum Processor Part of the cooling unit that keeps the D-Wave Two's processor near absolute zero NASA Ames / John Hardman Google apparently wants to try its hand at making its own quantum computing hardware. The company announced in its research blog that it's launching a project to make quantum processors that use superconductors. Google is already involved in quantum computer research through the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab. Lab […]

September 03, 2014

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7:00 PM | Scientists Send Messages Directly From One Brain To Another
Receiving a Brain Message Carles Grau et al., PLOS One, 2014. CC BY 2.5 So a team of neuroscientists sent a message from the brain of one person in India, to the brains of three people in France, using brainwave-reading equipment and the Internet. Yes, really. The process is slow and cumbersome. It also doesn't make use of any bleeding-edge technology. Instead, it puts together neurorobotics software and hardware that have been developed by several labs in recent years. […]
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1:00 PM | Vest And Scarf Made From Spider Silk
0.4 Percent Spider Silk, 99.6 Percent Silkworm Silk Yoshihiko Kuwana et al., PLOS One, 2014. CC BY 2.5 This silk scarf and vest have a nice drape and pretty color, but that's not why everyone here at Popular Science covets them. No, we're wishing they were ours because they're made of super-strong, transgenic spider silk. Functional and good-looking! Our favorite. The clothes were woven from silk produced by silkworms with a spider gene engineered into them. A mix of spider […]

September 02, 2014

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7:10 PM | A Google Glass App That Detects People's Emotions
Readout From an Emotion-Reading Google Glass App © Fraunhofer IIS/Jens Garbas Sometimes people are hard to read. Why not leave all that work to a computer? Perhaps you could use this experimental app that works in Google Glass. Aim Glass's camera at a person's face and the app reads the human's facial expression and tells you to what extent the person is feeling happy, sad, angry, or surprised. As a bonus, the app guesses the person's age and gender. Evaluating […]
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5:00 PM | Opportunity Rover's Memory To Undergo Reformat
Opportunity's Past Route, As Of July 27, 2014 The rover is heading to Marathon Valley. NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/NMMNHS Nearly a decade after it landed on Mars, NASA's Opportunity rover is about to get a fresh start. Opportunity's engineers plan to reformat its flash memory, which is good news, as the rover's mission has been renewed for another two years, Nature News reports. Over their lifetimes, Opportunity and the now-dead Spirit rover provided crucial evidence […]

August 28, 2014

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1:00 PM | Man 3-D Prints A Concrete Castle In His Backyard
Where Dreams Come True Andrey Rudenko, Total Kustom This is a castle that a man 3-D printed from concrete, using a printer he built himself. We like how variations in the concrete's color stretch perfectly across the castle—the product of care and engineering on the part of the maker, Andrey Rudenko. As he wrote on his website: Layering cement was an extremely difficult task- it required extensive tuning of the printer on a programming level, as well as using exact quantities for the […]

August 27, 2014

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10:09 PM | Found: The Part Of The Mouse Brain That Motivates Exercise
Lab Mouse Wikimedia Commons A team of researchers has found a part of the brain that controls how motivated mice are to exercise, according to a new study. The researchers created genetically modified mice that lacked neurons in the dorsal medial portion of a region of the brain called the habenula. The major difference was that the mice didn't like to run on mouse wheels, which normal mice love to do, the researchers reported in a paper they published in the Journal of Neuroscience. "They […]
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5:52 PM | What Could Cause A Nationwide Internet Outage?
Partial Map of the Internet, 2005 "Internet map 1024" by The Opte Project - Originally from the English Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY 2.5. If you looked at the news or Twitter this morning -- or perhaps you couldn't, because your Internet was malfunctioning -- you might have heard: Time Warner suffered a major outage in its Internet service at about 4:30 a.m. Eastern. The outage, affecting much of the U.S., lasted two hours, Reuters reported. Maps created by the outage-tracker […]

August 26, 2014

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6:30 PM | The Swine Flu You Can Get From American County Fairs
Pooger Source Photo by Lance Cheung, U.S. Department of Agriculture Before 2012, outbreaks of so-called "influenza A variant" infections in the U.S. only popped up once in a while in the medical literature. The strain normally infected pigs and was rarely seen in humans. Then, in 2012, healthcare workers across the U.S. reported 309 human cases of influenza A (H3N2) variant, also known as H3N2v. Sixteen people were hospitalized, and one woman in Ohio died. Researchers think there were […]

August 25, 2014

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10:14 PM | Emergency Fund Will Bankroll Ebola Research To Help In The Current Outbreak
Researchers Investigate an Ebola Outbreak in Uganda in 2012 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Public and private donors in the U.K. have launched an emergency fund for researchers studying Ebola. They want a quick turnaround time for the research they bankroll. Applications for the fund are due September 8 and funders are hoping studies will finish within two months, the Guardian reports. The tight timeline is designed to make a difference in the current outbreak in West […]
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9:00 PM | The Weird Ways Of Superfluid Helium
On the Surface This illustration shows quantum vortices on the surface of a nano-droplet of superfluid helium. In the background is a wheel-shaped superfluid helium drop. SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory With a temperature below -268 degrees Celsius, liquid helium keeps MRI machines and particle accelerators properly cooled (yay!). Take liquid helium's temperature even lower than that, however, and things start to get a little less practical -- and a lot more weird. At lower and […]
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4:30 PM | Abrasive Organic Herbicide Method Blasts Weeds To Death
Tractor-Mounted Propelled Abrasive Grit Management Photo by Dean Peterson One U.S. Department of Agriculture researcher is experimenting with a sandblasting-style method of killing weeds that could be certified organic, Minneapolis' Star Tribune reports. Agronomist Frank Forcella is blasting weeds with a spray of ground-up corncobs, walnut shells, corn gluten meal and other plant material. Sounds like he's exfoliating the weeds to death. Working with engineers at South Dakota State […]

August 21, 2014

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5:30 PM | Weird Microbes Thrive In Asphalt Lake And Sunless Glacial Water
Drilling on Lake Whillans Researchers and technicians lived in orange tents while drilling into Lake Whillans in January 2013. Reed Scherer, National Science Foundation Over the past week, scientists have published the results of studies analyzing two very strange -- and very different -- lakes. One is Pitch Lake, a lake made of asphalt and filled with hydrocarbon gases on the Caribbean island of Trinidad. The other is Lake Whillans, a freshwater body located 800 meters under the […]
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1:45 PM | Scientists Have No Idea Why U.S. Teens Are Having Fewer Babies Than Ever
Babies Nebraska Early Development Network The U.S. National Center for Health Statistics released today its latest report on American teenagers having babies. The results are both happy and strange. American teens are having babies at their lowest rate ever -- and that rate is falling fast. Yet, as Vox discovered, nobody knows why this is happening. One of the steadiest trends in American life is inexplicable. Here's the first graph in the NCHS report, showing a peak in teen births in […]
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