Originally published on Tue September 3, 2013 10:48 am
Radiation surrounding Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant has increased 18-fold following a report last month that radioactive water had leaked into the ground around the plant, which was badly damaged in a 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Tokyo Electric Power Co., which owns the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, reports that radiation around the site is at 1,800 millisieverts per hour, a level that Reuters says is "enough to kill an exposed person in four hours."
Previously, the utility, also known as Tepco, said the leaking water was at around 100 millisieverts per hour.
Originally published on Thu August 29, 2013 1:26 pm
It's not news that Hong Kong, which brags one of the world's most stunning skylines, has been gradually losing it behind a curtain of smog.
But the Chinese territory's latest solution is new: To placate camera-clicking tourists unable to get those iconic shots of the skyscraper-studded waterfront, Hong Kong has set up a panoramic backdrop with clear, blue skies.
The Chinese website Netease published a series of pictures of tourists posing in front of the backdrop.
Originally published on Tue August 27, 2013 7:24 pm
Scientists in Sweden say they have confirmed a new, super-heavy element that was first proposed by Russian scientists in 2004. The element with the atomic number 115 has yet to be named.
In a press release, Lund University says a group of international scientists led by physicists from Lund University, made the element by shooting a beam of calcium, which has 20 protons, into a thin film of americium, which has 95 protons.
For less than a second, the new element had 115 protons.
Originally published on Sat August 24, 2013 4:08 pm
Technicians on Saturday are set to cast 20 tons of glass for the third of seven ultra-precise primary mirrors that will make up the 72-foot Giant Magellan Telescope, scheduled for completion in northern Chile's arid Atacama Desert in 2020.
The parabolic mirror will be cast at the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory Mirror Lab. The molten borosilicate, made by the Ohara Corporation, will be spun cast at 2140 degrees Fahrenheit.
"If you could imagine a grandfather clock and see the pendulum swinging back and forth, ideally that pendulum would swing back and forth very uniformly," Ludlow says. "Each swing would take exactly the same amount of time."
That's stability. But what if something perturbs the system, like a mischievous toddler?
Originally published on Thu August 22, 2013 6:10 am
NASA is bringing a retired spacecraft back into service to help search for asteroids that could pose a danger to Earth, the space agency announced on Wednesday.
The spacecraft's three-year mission will begin next month "with the goal of discovering and characterizing near-Earth objects (NEOs), space rocks that can be found orbiting within 28 million miles (45 million kilometers) from Earth's path around the sun," NASA said in a statement.
Sometimes you have to give up a little privacy in order to find out how much — or how little — privacy you really have. So I handed over the keys to my Gmail account to Cesar Hidalgo, a professor at the MIT Media Lab and the designer of a program called Immersion.
Rocky, windswept Eastern Egg Rock, about 6 miles off the coast of Maine, was once a haven for a hugely diverse bird population. But in the 1800s, fishermen decimated the birds' ranks — for food and for feathers.
When ornithologist Stephen Kress first visited 40 years ago, the 7-acre island was nearly barren, with only grass and gulls left. Not a puffin in sight. Not even an old puffin bone.
Originally published on Wed August 21, 2013 10:17 am
Facebook's mission "to make the world more open and connected" is a familiar refrain among company leaders. But the latest research shows connecting 1.1 billion users around the world may come at a psychological cost.
A new University of Michigan study on college-aged adults finds that the more they used Facebook, the worse they felt. The study, published in the journal PLOS One, found Facebook use led to declines in moment-to-moment happiness and overall life satisfaction.
Originally published on Wed August 21, 2013 10:03 am
How risky are psychedelic drugs to mental health? Not nearly as much as you might have imagined.
People who had taken LSD, psilocybin (the brain-bending chemical in magic mushrooms) or mescaline at any time in their lives were no more likely than those who hadn't to wind up in mental health treatment or to have symptoms of mental illness, according to an analysis by some Norwegian researchers.
And there was some evidence that people who had taken the drugs at some point were less likely to have had recent mental health treatment.
Originally published on Mon August 19, 2013 10:49 am
As a university professor, I've had the opportunity to view lectures from multiple vantage points. From the front of the room you see a sea of students — some attentive, a handful asleep and a good share semi-obstructed by the crisp plane of an open laptop.
The view is quite different From the back of the room. The eager-looking student near the door, keenly typing away, is on Facebook. The dozing student near the back might just have an earbud subtly snaking its way to his smartphone. Another student flits back and forth between a PDF of the lecture slides and her email.
The Voyager 1 spacecraft launched in 1977 on a mission to Jupiter and Saturn. It kept on going. Today it's billions of miles from Earth, and scientists have been predicting it will soon leave the solar system.
Originally published on Fri August 16, 2013 8:40 am
Privacy is the state of being unobserved.
Looking back at history and prehistory, privacy is the rarest luxury. It requires walls or seclusion. It is not our natural condition.
In recent times people have taken privacy for granted, the same way we take other modern conveniences for granted. There's nothing natural about privacy, just as there is nothing inalienable about cheap fast food.
There's some sad news from NASA: The space agency says its Kepler space telescope is beyond repair.
The $600 million planet-hunting probe whose mission was to search other solar systems for Earth-like planets has lost its ability to keep its gaze on target.
Two of the four gyroscope-like reaction wheels that keep Kepler pointed in the right direction have broken down and can't be fixed, but NASA is still hoping it can find some less-stressful work for the orbiting observatory.