SpaceX Delays First Private Launch to Space Station

1:09:34 AM, Wednesday, April 25, 2012

“(phys.org, April 24, 2012) SpaceX has postponed by a week its bid to become the first private company to attempt to launch an unmanned cargo vessel to the International Space Station.

"After reviewing our recent progress, it was clear that we needed more time to finish hardware-in-the-loop testing and properly review and follow up on all data," SpaceX spokeswoman Kirstin Brost Grantham said late Monday.

"While it is still possible that we could launch on May 3rd, it would be wise to add a few more days of margin in case things take longer than expected.

"As a result, our launch is likely to be pushed back by one week, pending coordination with NASA," she said in a statement, adding that the company would announce the new target date once it was determined.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced the decision via Twitter, writing: "Am pushing launch back approx a week to do more testing on Dragon docking code. New date pending coordination with NASA."

Last Monday NASA said there was a good chance SpaceX would soon become the first private company to attempt to launch its spacecraft to the ISS on an unmanned cargo flight.

SpaceX aims to carry out a fly-by of the ISS and a berthing operation in which the reusable spacecraft, the Dragon, will approach the ISS as the crew aboard the orbiting outpost uses a robotic arm to dock it…”

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German Scientists Unveil 'Intelligent' Tyre for All Weather

1:05:27 AM, Wednesday, April 25, 2012

“Are you fed up of having to change your summer tyres for winter tyres at the first sign of snow? Or of being caught out on a long car journey by sudden changes in the weather?

That may soon be a thing of the past, according to a group of researchers at Leipzig university, who are developing the world's first-ever "intelligent" tyre which automatically adapts itself to the prevailing weather conditions even while you are driving.

A team of researchers headed by Detlef Riemer at the University of Applied Sciences in Leipzig unveiled the "adaptive tyre" at this year's Hanover Fair, the world's biggest industrial fair taking place in the north German city this week.

"Today's choice of tyres are always a compromise between the ability to brake and petrol consumption," Riemer said.

"The car driver has to take into consideration every sort of weather condition and you can't change tyres while you're driving."

But Riemer's "adaptive tyre" is equipped with electronic sensors which recognise different sorts of terrain -- whether motorway or un-tarmacked roads -- and whether it's dry, raining or snowing…”

-- Awesome!!! It will not be a better option than running dedicated tires for the terrain, but this is very promising and a step in the right direction.

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Water Forms Floating 'Bridge' When Exposed to High Voltage

12:58:50 AM, Wednesday, April 25, 2012

“(September 28, 2007, phys.org) While it's one of the most important and abundant chemical compounds on Earth, water is still a puzzle to scientists. Much research has been done to uncover the structure of water beyond the H2O scale, which is thought to be responsible for many of water’s unique properties. However, the nature of this structure, governed by hydrogen bonds, is currently unknown.

“Water undoubtedly is the most important chemical substance in the world,” explained Elmar Fuchs and colleagues from the Graz University of Technology in Austria in a recent study. “The interaction of water with electric fields has been intensely explored over the last years. We report another unusual effect of liquid water exposed to a dc electric field: the floating water bridge.”

When exposed to a high-voltage electric field, water in two beakers climbs out of the beakers and crosses empty space to meet, forming the water bridge. The liquid bridge, hovering in space, appears to the human eye to defy gravity.

Upon investigating the phenomenon, the scientists found that water was being transported from one beaker to another, usually from the anode beaker to the cathode beaker. The cylindrical water bridge, with a diameter of 1-3 mm, could remain intact when the beakers were pulled apart at a distance of up to 25 mm.

Why water would act this way was a surprise, Fuchs told PhysOrg.com. But the group’s analyses have shown that the explanation may lie within the nature of the water’s structure. Initially, the bridge forms due to electrostatic charges on the surface of the water. The electric field then concentrates inside the water, arranging the water molecules to form a highly ordered microstructure. This microstructure remains stable, keeping the bridge intact…”

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Private Company's Plan to Mine Asteroids

12:46:18 AM, Wednesday, April 25, 2012

“Planetary Resources, Inc. is not your average startup: its mission is to investigate and eventually mine asteroids in space!

Last week, the company issued a somewhat cryptic announcement saying they “will overlay two critical sectors – space exploration and natural resources – to add trillions of dollars to the global GDP”. I predicted this meant they wanted to mine asteroids, and yes, I will toot my own horn: I was right. They’re holding a press conference Tuesday morning to officially announce they’re going asteroid hunting.

The company had a pretty fierce amount of credibility right off the bat, with several ex-NASA engineers, an astronaut, and planetary scientists involved, as well as the backing of not one but several billionaires, including a few from Google… not to mention James Cameron. The co-founders of Planetary Resources are Peter Diamandis — he created the highly-successful X-Prize Foundation, to give cash awards to incremental accomplishments that will help achieve technological breakthroughs, including those for space travel — and Eric Anderson, X-Prize board member and Chairman of the Board of the Space Spaceflight Federation.

These are very, very heavy hitters. Clearly, they’re not screwing around…”

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New Technique Efficiently Creates Single Photons for Quantum Information Processing

1:38:16 AM, Saturday, April 21, 2012

“Using lasers to excite just one atom from a cloud of ultra-cold rubidium gas, physicists have developed a new way to rapidly and efficiently create single photons for potential use in optical quantum information processing – and in the study of dynamics and disorder in certain physical systems.

The technique takes advantage of the unique properties of atoms that have one or more electrons excited to a condition of near-ionization known as the Rydberg state. Atoms in this highly excited state – with a principal quantum number greater than 70 – have exaggerated electromagnetic properties and interact strongly with one another. That allows one Rydberg atom to block the formation of additional excited atoms within an area of 10 to 20 microns.

That single Rydberg atom can then be converted to a photon, ensuring that – on average – only one photon is produced from a rubidium cloud containing hundreds of densely-packed atoms. Reliably producing a single photon with well known properties is important to a several research areas, including quantum information systems.

The new technique was scheduled to be reported April 19 in ScienceExpress, the rapid online publication of the journal Science. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR)…”

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Lamborghini’s Not-So-Secret SUV Leaks Early As The Urus

1:28:36 AM, Saturday, April 21, 2012

“The least-kept secret of the Beijing Motor Show spilled out today with the leak of these renderings showing Lamborghini's proposed new sport utility vehicle. Dubbed the Urus, the concept SUV would be Lamborghini's bid to cash in on the booming global market for high-end luxury SUVs -- if customers can accept the strange blend of supercar angles and racing tires on a high-riding hatchback.

While Lamborghini has flourished with new models under its ownership by Volkswagen, profits have remained elusive. With Porsche thriving thanks to its Cayenne SUV, other automakers now wonder just how big the market for people movers with some off-road capability might be; BMW keeps adding to its already full range of luxury SUVs, while Lamborghini stablemate Bentley's idea of the EXP 9F concept shows the dangers inherent in the concept. Lamborghini execs have said they have yet to win approval to build it -- but given demand for big vehicles in China and the Middle East, that seems like a formality ahead of a 2017 arrival.

Unlike Bentley, Lamborghini has a history with trucks; the LM002 SUV set the mold that the Hummer H2 would attempt to fill two decades later. The Urus -- named for the ancestor of modern bulls in Spain -- looks nothing like the LM002, drawing its styling from what a four-door Aventador might look like and its underpinnings from either the Cayenne or corporate cousin Audi. Many details such as specific engine choices remain under embargo; we'll have the full story on the Urus this weekend, but until then you can debate whether a Lamborghini SUV stands as a savvy move or just a lot of bull.”

-- Meh, though the side profile is not too bad.

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Evolution Seen in 'Synthetic DNA'

1:16:49 AM, Saturday, April 21, 2012

“(BBC 19 April 2012) Researchers have succeeded in mimicking the chemistry of life in synthetic versions of DNA and RNA molecules.

The work shows that DNA and its chemical cousin RNA are not unique in their ability to encode information and to pass it on through heredity.

The work, reported in Science, is promising for future "synthetic biology" and biotechnology efforts.

It also hints at the idea that if life exists elsewhere, it could be bound by evolution but not by similar chemistry.

In fact, one reason to mimic the functions of DNA and RNA - which helps cells to manufacture proteins - is to determine how they came about at the dawn of life on Earth; many scientists believe that RNA arose first but was preceded by a simpler molecule that performed the same function.

However, it has remained unclear if any other molecule can participate in the same unzipping and copying processes that give DNA and RNA their ability to pass on the information they carry in the sequences of their nucleobases - the five letters from which the genetic code is written…”

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NASA to Conduct Flight of Space Shuttle Enterprise Near Landmarks off Hoboken, Jersey City

2:23:17 PM, Friday, April 20, 2012

“The aircraft that helped launch the country into the next round of space exploration is scheduled to fly over the Hudson River on Monday.

Right before a successful transport of the space shuttle Discovery to the nation’s capitol on Tuesday, NASA announced this week that the 747 shuttle-carrier aircraft -- with shuttle Enterprise on top -- will fly at a relatively low altitude over parts of the area on Monday.

The agency said that the Federal Aviation Administration is coordinating the flight, which is tentatively scheduled to occur between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. on Monday.

“If all goes as planned, the aircraft is expected to fly near a variety of landmarks in the metropolitan area, including the Statue of Liberty and the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. When the flyover is complete, the SCA will land at John F. Kennedy International Airport,” said the agency in a release.

The exact route of the flight will not be determined until NASA sees what kind of weather Hudson County is experiencing on Monday…”

-- If you're in the NYC area don't miss the photo-op when the 747 shuttle-carrier aircraft will fly Enterprise over the Hudson and near other landmarks in the area!!!

Scheduled to occur between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. on Monday!

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Shuttle Discovery Retires with Washington Flypast

2:01:56 PM, Friday, April 20, 2012

“(BBC 17 April 2012) One of Nasa's retired space shuttles has made a dramatic flypast over the centre of the US capital on the way to its final resting place in a museum.

Discovery flew over the monuments along the National Mall in Washington DC at about 10:00 EST (14:00 GMT).

Piggy-backing on a modified Boeing 747, Discovery was flying at an altitude of about 1,500ft (457m), Nasa said.

The shuttle programme ended in 2011. Discovery will be on show at the Air and Space Museum in Virginia.

After circling four times over the Washington Monument, and passing the National Mall over Capitol Hill, the shuttle landed at Dulles Airport, a few miles outside Washington DC.

From there it will be towed to the nearby Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, where it will be on permanent display.

During the flypast, onlookers lined the roofs of the capital's buildings and the route to the airport, wanting to catch a glimpse of the shuttle.

Earlier, crowds of onlookers gathered along the Florida shoreline as dawn broke on Tuesday to see the shuttle take off from Kennedy Space Center.

Cheers broke out from the estimated 2,000-strong crowd as the aircraft left the runway, the Associated Press reported…”

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Asteroid Craters Could Provide Clue to Life on Mars

1:58:20 PM, Friday, April 20, 2012

“The chances of finding life on Mars could be improved by looking in craters made by asteroids, according to a study.

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh said organisms had been discovered thriving deep underneath a site in the US where an asteroid crashed 35 million years ago.

They believe such craters provide refuge for microbes.

The findings suggest that crater sites on other planets may be "hiding life".

To find the microbes, researchers drilled almost 2km below one of the largest asteroid impact craters on Earth, in Chesapeake, US.

Samples from below ground showed that microbes are unevenly spread throughout the rock, suggesting that the environment is continuing to settle 35 million years after impact…”

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Neutrinos Put Cosmic Ray Theory on Ice

1:55:52 PM, Friday, April 20, 2012

“(April 20, 2012 Phys.org) A telescope buried beneath the South Pole has failed to find any neutrinos accompanying exploding fireballs in space, undermining a leading theory of how cosmic rays are born.

IceCube, a detector made up of 5,160 optical sensors embedded up to 2.5km deep in the Antarctic ice, searched for evidence of neutrinos emitted from 300 fireballs, known as gamma ray bursts, observed between May 2008 and April 2010.

In Nature the team behind the experiments report that the search did not find a single neutrino, a result that challenges the idea that cosmic rays originate from gamma ray bursts (GRBs).

Cosmic rays are electrically charged particles, such as protons, that strike Earth from all directions, with energies up to one hundred million times higher than those created in manmade particle accelerators. Understanding their origins would provide crucial insights into the most energetic phenomena in the Universe.

Professor Subir Sarkar of Oxford University’s Department of Physics, who leads the UK involvement in IceCube, said: ‘Although this is a negative result it illustrates that cosmic neutrino detection has come of age – IceCube has achieved the necessary sensitivity to neutrino fluxes expected from likely sources of cosmic rays. It should not be long now before we find the real sources.’

The finding is likely to focus attention on the other prime candidate for creating cosmic rays: the massive black holes found at the centre of active galaxies.

‘The result of this neutrino search is significant because for the first time we have an instrument with sufficient sensitivity to open a new window on cosmic ray production and the interior processes of GRBs,’ said IceCube spokesperson and University of Maryland physics professor Greg Sullivan. ‘The unexpected absence of neutrinos from GRBs has forced a reevaluation of the theory for production of cosmic rays and neutrinos in a GRB fireball and possibly the theory that high energy cosmic rays are generated in fireballs.’

‘Although we have not discovered where cosmic rays come from, we have taken a major step towards ruling out one of the leading predictions,’ said IceCube principal investigator, and University of Wisconsin - Madison physics professor, Francis Halzen.”

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Juice Leads Billion-Euro Space Race to Jupiter

10:57:11 PM, Wednesday, April 18, 2012

“A proposal to study Jupiter's icy moons is now the front runner to be chosen as a billion-euro space mission.

However, formal selection of the concept will have to wait until a key European space committee meets to discuss the various contenders in May.

The Juice mission would launch in 2022 and would help assess whether Jupiter's moons could support life.

It has been up against two other concepts in the European Space Agency's (Esa) Cosmic Vision competition.

The Juice (JUpiter ICy moon Explorer) proposal envisages an instrument-packed, near five-tonne satellite at launch that would be sent out to the Solar System's biggest planet, to make a careful investigation of three of its Galilean moons.

The spacecraft would use the gravity of the gas giant to initiate a series of close flybys around Callisto, Europa, and then finally to put itself in a settled orbit around Ganymede.

Emphasis would be put on "habitability" - in trying to understand whether there is any possibility that these moons could host microbial life.

The other mission concepts that have been up against Juice are Athena, which would be the biggest X-ray telescope ever built; and NGO, which would place a trio of high-precision satellites in space to detect gravitational waves.

Esa's Space Science Advisory Committee (SSAC) met earlier this month to consider the different ideas.

Its thoughts were then passed to the agency's executive, which has now tabled a formal proposal to member states, nominating Juice as the preferred mission to be implemented.

The 19 member-state delegations will have the final say during a gathering of the agency's Science Programme Committee (SPC) in Paris on 2 May. Selection requires a simple majority vote.

It is possible the SPC could decide to go against the executive, but there is wide expectation that it will accept the recommendation…”

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3D Printers Could Create Customised Drugs on Demand

10:39:44 PM, Wednesday, April 18, 2012

“Scientists are pioneering the use of 3D printers to create drugs and other chemicals at the University of Glasgow.

Researchers have used a £1,250 system to create a range of organic compounds and inorganic clusters - some of which are used to create cancer treatments.

Longer term, the scientists say the process could be used to make customised medicines.

They predict the technique will be used by pharmaceutical firms within five years, and by the public within 20.

"We are showing that you can take chemical constituents, pass them through a printer and create what is effectively a chemical synthesiser in which the reaction occurs allowing you to get out something different at the end," researcher Mark Symes told the BBC.

"We're extrapolating from that to say that in the future you could buy common chemicals, slot them into something that 3D prints, just press a button to mix the ingredients and filter them through the architecture and at the bottom you would get out your prescription drug."

'Revolutionising healthcare'

The 3D printing process involves the use of a robotically controlled syringe which builds an object out of a gel-based "ink", into which chemicals and catalysts are mixed.

"Chemists normally put chemicals in glassware to create a reaction," said Prof Lee Cronin, who came up with the idea…”

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The Glass Brain by Katharine Dawson

9:49:21 PM, Tuesday, April 17, 2012

-- Artist Katharine Dawson used an MRI scan of her own brain to construct this laser-etched version encased in crystal.

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Two Neutrons at the Same Time: Discovery of Dineutron Decay

9:45:49 PM, Tuesday, April 17, 2012

“(Phys.org, April 12, 2012) -- Nuclear physicists recently witnessed an atomic nucleus do something that nobody had ever seen one do before – two neutrons at the same time.

Emitting them, that is.

The experiment revealed a brand new form of nuclear decay, the process by which unstable atoms release energy and transform into more stable forms. But instead of emitting known patterns of radiation, the nucleus ejected two correlated neutrons simultaneously – a dineutron. Though physicists had long theorized about the existence of this form of decay, this was the first experiment to see the dineutron event in action.

“We have for the first time unambiguously observed dineutron decay and clearly identified it in beryllium-16,” said Artemis Spyrou, professor of nuclear physics.

The newly discovered dineutron decay mode joins the 15 other known forms of atomic decay, including double proton emission, double beta decay and double positron emission. The results hold promise to strengthen scientists’ understanding of the strong force that holds nuclei together and the processes taking place within neutron stars.

The researchers caught the act red-handed. Beryllium-16 is an unbound, unstable isotope with 4 protons and 12 neutrons that decays in less than a trillionth of a second. To produce the extremely short-lived nucleus, the physicists smashed a beam of boron-17 into a solid target, occasionally knocking out a proton and forming the desired beryllium-16…”

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