Science + Technology

Science + Technology
11:15 am
Thu August 29, 2013

Are We Martians? Scientist Says We Just Might Be

Mars: Our "home" planet?
NASA Getty Images

As Adam Frank has said over on the 13.7 blog, "Earth and Mars have been swapping spit (astrobiologically speaking) for eons ... [and] it is entirely possible we were Earth's first alien invasion."

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Science + Technology
10:18 am
Thu August 29, 2013

Have Your Picture Taken With Hong Kong's (Smog-Free) Skyline

Tourists from mainland China take photos in front of a large outdoor banner showing what Hong Kong looks like on a clean air day, in Hong Kong on Aug. 21.
Alex Hofford EPA/Landov

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.

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Science + Technology
3:30 am
Thu August 29, 2013

To Attract Millennials, Automakers Look To Smartphones

Audi's night vision assistant, an example of how car companies are making cars that are part of drivers' digital lives.
Courtesy of Audi

Originally published on Thu August 29, 2013 3:47 pm

Part of a series of stories produced in collaboration with Youth Radio on the changing car culture in America.

In an effort to attract young people to cars, automakers have set up shop in Silicon Valley and are looking to the digital world as a way to lure them.

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Science + Technology
12:34 pm
Wed August 28, 2013

How To Disappear When Someone's Spying On You

Courtesy of Adam Harvey

Originally published on Wed August 28, 2013 6:32 pm

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Science + Technology
7:17 pm
Tue August 27, 2013

Scientists Say They've Confirmed A New Element

The periodic table.
Wikimedia Commons

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.

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Science + Technology
12:33 pm
Sat August 24, 2013

Tons Of Molten Glass Go Into Making Mirror For Giant Telescope

An artist's concept of the completed Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT)
Giant Magellan Telescope

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.

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Science + Technology
5:26 pm
Fri August 23, 2013

Hurricane Season A Bust? Don't Be So Sure

A satellite image provided by NASA shows Hurricane Sandy on Oct. 30. Forecasters underestimated the intensity of the Atlantic hurricane season last year.
NASA Getty Images

Originally published on Fri August 23, 2013 1:55 pm

Back in May, several independent forecast groups predicted an especially active Atlantic hurricane season this year. But with August drawing to a close, we've yet to see a single one.

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Science + Technology
5:28 pm
Thu August 22, 2013

The World's Most Precise Clock Could Prove Einstein Wrong

This may look like a mad scientist's garage sale, but it's actually the most precise clock ever built.
Jim Burrus NIST

Originally published on Thu August 22, 2013 7:00 pm

What a makes a good clock? Andrew Ludlow, a physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, says one of the most important criteria is stability.

"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?

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Science + Technology
9:21 am
Thu August 22, 2013

NASA Reactivating Spacecraft To Hunt For Near-Earth Asteroids

This artist's drawing shows the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE spacecraft, in its orbit around Earth.
NASA/JPL-Caltech

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.

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Science + Technology
2:56 am
Thu August 22, 2013

How A Look At Your Gmail Reveals The Power Of Metadata

An MIT analysis of Larry Abramson's Gmail account illustrates his online relationships.
immersion.mit.media.edu

Originally published on Thu August 22, 2013 12:43 pm

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.

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Science + Technology
3:35 pm
Wed August 21, 2013

On A Rocky Maine Island, Puffins Are Making A Tenuous Comeback

A puffin prepares to land with a bill full of fish on Eastern Egg Rock, off the Maine coast in July. Last year young puffins died at an alarming rate from starvation because of a shortage of herring.
Robert F. Bukaty AP

Originally published on Wed August 21, 2013 8:12 pm

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.

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Science + Technology
12:14 pm
Wed August 21, 2013

Facebook Makes Us Sadder And Less Satisfied, Study Finds

Researchers say Facebook use can lead to a decline in happiness and satisfaction.
Joerg Koch AP

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.

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Science + Technology
3:50 pm
Tue August 20, 2013

Study Finds No Link Between Hallucinogens And Mental Problems

Don't fear the 'shrooms.
iStockphoto.com

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.

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Science + Technology
9:15 am
Tue August 20, 2013

Stop Multitasking! It's Distracting Me (And You)

iStockphoto.com

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.

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Science + Technology
2:57 am
Tue August 20, 2013

How Extreme Australian Rains Made Global Sea Levels Drop

Heavy rains in Australia in 2010 and 2011 flooded farmland and homes, like these in the Queensland state town of St. George, seen here on Feb. 7. 2011.
Sally Nicol Rigney AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue August 20, 2013 9:19 am

Global sea level has been rising as a result of global warming, but in 2010 and 2011, sea level actually fell by about a quarter of an inch.

Scientists now say they know why: It has to do with extreme weather in Australia.

The sea level drop coincided with some of the worst flooding in that continent's history. Dozens of people died and torrents washed away houses and cars, forcing thousands from their homes.

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Science + Technology
1:32 pm
Mon August 19, 2013

How One Plus One Became Everything: A Puzzle of Life

Courtesy of Paolo Ceric

Originally published on Mon August 19, 2013 10:00 am

It's one of life's great mysteries ...

Four billion years ago, or thereabouts, organic chemicals in the sea somehow spun themselves into little homes, with insides and outsides. We call them cells.

They did this in different ways, but always keeping their insides in, protected from the outside world ...

... surrounded by walls or skins of different types ...

... but letting in essentials, nutrients. Some even learned to eat sunshine, capturing energy ...

... which gave them a pulse of their own ...

... so they could move ...

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Science + Technology
2:25 am
Mon August 19, 2013

Has Voyager 1 Left The Solar System?

This artist rendering provided by NASA shows Voyager 1 at the edge of the solar system.
AP

Originally published on Mon August 19, 2013 2:52 pm

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.

NPR has been on Voyager watch since at least 2003, when longtime science correspondent Richard Harris provided this warning of Voyager's impending departure.

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Science + Technology
1:19 pm
Fri August 16, 2013

What's The Big Deal About Privacy?

iStockphoto.com

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.

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Science + Technology
10:31 am
Fri August 16, 2013

Kepler Space Telescope Is Beyond Repair, NASA Says

An artist's illustration of Kepler-22b, a planet that circles its star in the "goldilocks" zone.
Ames/JPL-Caltech/NASA Getty Images

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.

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Science + Technology
8:20 am
Thu August 15, 2013

VIDEO: 'Sideways Rocket Hop' By SpaceX Prototype

The "Grasshopper" during its hop into the air.
SpaceX

Originally published on Thu August 15, 2013 1:50 pm

The engineers at SpaceX this week successfully launched a 10-story rocket to an altitude of about 800 feet, moved it about 330 feet sideways and then brought the "Grasshopper" back down to its landing pad.

Check out the video.

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