Posts about science (old posts, page 2)

NASA to Abandon Mars Spirit Rover

NASA said on Tuesday that it was abandoning efforts to get back in touch with Spirit, one of the two rovers on Mars. Spirit, which has been stuck in a sand trap for two years, fell silent last year as winter arrived and its solar panels could no longer generate enough electricity. Engineers had hoped that the rover would revive when spring returned, but they never heard from it again.Now, as the Martian days grow shorter, Spirit's managers decided that it was not worth the time and money to continue.

Visible Paleo-Earth

The goal of the Visible Paleo-Earth (VPE) project is to visualize in true-colors the evolution of Earth surface from paleo-climates to today. We are using paleogeography and paleoclimate reconstructions combined with NASA satellite imagery to generate our best interpretation of the global visual appearance of Earth in the last 750 million years, as seem from space.We are using the information of NASA Blue Marble - Next Generation to recreate the color of our images. The "blue marble" image (right) is the most detailed true-color image of the entire Earth to date. Using a collection of satellite-based observations, scientists and visualizers from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center stitched together months of observations of the land surface, oceans, sea ice, and clouds into a seamless, true-color mosaic of every square kilometer of our planet.

Mystery signal at Fermilab hints at technicolour force

Just over 20 years ago, Lane, along with Fermilab physicist Estia Eichten, predicted that experiments would see just such a signal. Lane and Eichten were working on a theory known as technicolour, which proposes the existence of a fifth fundamental force in addition to the four already known: gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. Technicolour is very similar to the strong force, which binds quarks together in the nuclei of atoms, only it operates at much higher energies. It is also able to give particles their mass - rendering the Higgs boson unnecessary.The new force comes with a zoo of new particles. Lane and Eichten's model predicted that a technicolour particle called a technirho would often decay into a W boson and another particle called a technipion

Low-serotonin mice less choosy about sex of partners

They found that male mice lose their normal preference for female mice if they have low levels of serotonin - a hormone that carries signals in the brain. Instead, they try to mate with individuals of both sexes, in equal measure. Inject them with more serotonin, and you can restore their preference for females. The obvious conclusion is that serotonin affects the sexual preferences of mice. The obvious question is whether it also affects the sexual preferences of humans. And, as is often the case, it's a little more complicated than that.

Japan Does Not Face Another Chernobyl

If a meltdown does occur in Japan, it will be a disaster for the Tokyo Electric Power Company but not for the general public. Whatever steam releases occur will have a negligible impact. Researchers have spent 30 years trying to find health effects from the steam releases at Three Mile Island and have come up with nothing. With all the death, devastation and disease now threatening tens of thousands in Japan, it is trivializing and almost obscene to spend so much time worrying about damage to a nuclear reactor.What the Japanese earthquake has proved is that even the oldest containment structures can withstand the impact of one of the largest earthquakes in recorded history. The problem has been with the electrical pumps required to operate the cooling system. It would be tragic if the result of the Japanese accident were to prevent development of Generation III reactors, which eliminate this design flaw.

David Suzuki: Lays Down The Smack

Far more dangerous are attempts by U.S. politicians to attack the overwhelming scientific evidence that human activity is causing catastrophic climate change. Despite countless studies by scientists from around the world and agreement among 98 percent of the world's climate scientists and most of the world's scientific academies and societies that greenhouse gas emissions are causing the Earth's average temperature to rise, not to mention the facts staring us in the face--increased frequency of extreme weather conditions, rising sea levels, melting ice caps and glaciers--some politicians in the U.S. continue to reject the science and argue that we must proceed with business as usual.Virginia's Republican attorney general, Kenneth Cuccinelli, has been spending taxpayer dollars attacking climate scientists at the University of Virginia and is suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over its ruling that carbon dioxide and other global warming gases are a threat to human health and welfare.Many Republicans, some of whom also reject the science of evolution and believe the Earth was created 6,000 years ago and that humans and dinosaurs walked together, have been following his lead.

Patrick Matthew > Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin's theory of gradual evolution is not supported by geological history, New York University Geologist Michael Rampino concludes in an essay in the journal Historical Biology. In fact, Rampino notes that a more accurate theory of gradual evolution, positing that long periods of evolutionary stability are disrupted by catastrophic mass extinctions of life, was put forth by Scottish horticulturalist Patrick Matthew prior to Darwin's published work on the topic."Matthew discovered and clearly stated the idea of natural selection, applied it to the origin of species, and placed it in the context of a geologic record marked by catastrophic mass extinctions followed by relatively rapid adaptations," says Rampino, whose research on catastrophic events includes studies on volcano eruptions and asteroid impacts. "In light of the recent acceptance of the importance of catastrophic mass extinctions in the history of life, it may be time to reconsider the evolutionary views of Patrick Matthew as much more in line with present ideas regarding biological evolution than the Darwin view.

Hayabusa 2

A new-and-improved successor to the troubled Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa - which finally returned a capsule to Earth earlier this year - could launch as soon as 2014. Hayabusa 2 would then be expected to return in 2020, bearing clues to the origin of life on Earth.Last week, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) got the go-ahead from the government to begin development of Hayabusa 2, which will cost an estimated 164 billion yen ($2 billion).

dinosaurs deceived us

Taken together, the "loss" of four species from the Hell Creek formation reveals that the dinosaurs that lived there up until 65 million years ago were not as diverse as previously thought. Triceratops and torosaurus have long been regarded as the last survivors of the horned dinosaurs, a large group that appeared in the Jurassic and reached its heyday about 80 million years ago. Now it seems that only one species made it through to the end of the Cretaceous. This could be evidence to support a disputed theory that dinosaur diversity was in decline long before an asteroid impact wiped them out.

Testing SpaceShip Two

Virgin Galactic, the company behind the development of SpaceShipTwo and private space tourism, says yesterday's flight marked the first time SpaceShipTwo flew with a crew on board. Peter Siebold, test pilot and director of flight tests at Scaled, joined fellow test pilot Michael Alsbury aboard the VSS Enterprise as it remained mated with WhiteKnightTwo throughout the flight. It was the third captive flight for the craft and the 33rd flight for the mother ship. The craft spent six hours and 12 minutes aloft testing SpaceShipTwo's systems. Virgin says all went well.

Testing SpaceShip Two