Category: science

Double the fun: Mars scientists push NASA to send rock-harvesting rover to two sites

By Alexandra Witze

NASA’s next Mars rover — the first to gather rock samples meant to come back to Earth — should dream big and visit as many places on the red planet as possible, scientists concluded on 18 October.

Its stops would probably include some combination of Jezero crater, once home to river deltas and a lake; Northeast Syrtis, which contains some of the most ancient rocks on Mars; and Midway, a compromise option located between those two. Project scientists have proposed visiting both Jezero, for the river and lake sediments that might retain signs of past life, and Midway, for the ancient rocks.

The two are approximately 28 kilometres apart — so visiting both would be an ambitious but achievable goal.

“The community prefers a mega-mission,” says Bethany Ehlmann, a planetary scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. “If we’re going to do sample return, it has to be a sample cache for the ages.”

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What legal weed in Canada means for science

By Elie Dolgin

Jonathan Page has been around cannabis all his life. Growing up on Canada’s Vancouver Island in the 1970s, he was surrounded by hippie beachcombers and dope smokers. So after earning a PhD in plant biology and phytochemistry, he felt completely at ease working with the plant Cannabis sativa as a postdoc in Germany in the early 2000s.

During that time, Page helped to characterize a pair of genes that some varieties of the plant uses to make fragrant oils responsible for pine- and lemon-like aromas1. And during an interview for a position with Canada’s National Research Council (NRC), Page proposed similar projects to reveal how cannabis produces pharmaceutically active compounds known as cannabinoids.

He got the job, but was dismayed when he showed up to start his lab group in 2003 at the NRC’s Plant Biotechnology Institute in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Page recalls his boss saying: “You’re not going to work on cannabis here. We’re the government.”

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Scientists Discover a Weird Noise Coming From Antarctic Ice Shelf

By Brian Kahn

The Antarctic is no stranger to weird sounds, from ancient trapped air bubbles popping to entire ice sheets disintegrating. Now we can add another freaky track to the ouevre of icy masterpieces.

Scientists monitoring the Ross Ice Shelf in West Antarctica captured the acoustic oddity. Using a series of ultra sensitive seismic sensors, they produced a soundscape that would fit in perfectly at a Halloween haunted house or as the soundtrack to a 1950s B-movie about aliens arriving on Earth. But beyond being spooky, the sounds reveal how numerous processes from winds to warming are changing Antarctica’s ice.

Julien Chaput, an ambient noise monitoring expert at Colorado State University and new faculty at University of Texas, El Paso told Earther the records were a “happy accident.” In 2014 researchers were deploying seismic equipment on the Ross Ice Shelf, the largest hunk of floating ice in Antarctica, to study the crust and mantle underneath it. Chaput hopped on board hoping to tease out seasonal changes to the ice shelf’s mass, “and instead found strange spectral anomalies that escaped easy explanations, suggesting high frequency trapped seismic waves in the top couple of meters of snow.”

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Laurie Anderson’s VR installation flies you to the moon


The moon has been receiving a lot of attention lately. From Elon Musk’s SpaceX trip around the moon — which recently signed on its first billionaire passenger — to NASA’s renewed plans for moon exploration, it seems we’re in a new lunar space race.

The latest exhibition at Denmark’s Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, “The Moon: From Inner Worlds to Outer Space,” looks at how artists have been looking upward to Earth’s satellite — not only from a scientific point of view, but also to the moon as a cultural symbol imbued with different meanings.

“I was the first artist in residence at NASA,” said artist-musician Laurie Anderson, whose work, co-created with fellow mixed-media artist Hsin-Chien Huang, is one of the highlights of the exhibition. “For three years, I just was a fly on the wall at Mission Control in Houston, Jet Propulsion lab in Pasadena, the Hubble in Maryland. Artists have a different point of view and that should be represented.”

Anderson has never shied away from drawing upon science for technological advancements to use in her work, which often has a futuristic tone. Her 1981 self-directed video for the song “O Superman,” which brought her progressive aesthetic into pop culture, is no exception and cleverly shows Anderson’s fascination with technology.

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Percentage of young U.S. children who don’t receive any vaccines has quadrupled since 2001

By Lena H. Sun

A small but increasing number of children in the United States are not getting some or all of their recommended vaccinations. The percentage of children under 2 years old who haven’t received any vaccinations has quadrupled in the last 17 years, according to federal health data released Thursday.

Overall, immunization rates remain high and haven’t changed much at the national level. But a pair of reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about immunizations for preschoolers and kindergartners highlights a growing concern among health officials and clinicians about children who aren’t getting the necessary protection against vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles, whooping cough and other pediatric infectious diseases.

The vast majority of parents across the country vaccinate their children and follow recommended schedules for this basic preventive practice. But the recent upswing in vaccine skepticism and outright refusal to vaccinate has spawned communities of under-vaccinated children who are more susceptible to disease and pose health risks to the broader public.

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Trump: Climate change scientists have ‘political agenda’

By the BBC

US President Donald Trump has accused climate change scientists of having a “political agenda” as he cast doubt on whether humans were responsible for the earth’s rising temperatures.

But Mr Trump also said he no longer believed climate change was a hoax.

The comments, made during an interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes, come less than a week after climate scientists issued a final call to halt rising temperatures.

The world’s leading scientists agree that climate change is human-induced.

Last week’s report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the leading international body evaluating climate change – warned the world was heading towards a temperature rise of 3C.

Scientists say that natural fluctuations in temperature are being exacerbated by human activity – which has caused approximately 1C of global warming above pre-industrial levels.

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Medical Doctor: 90% of Goop’s “Wellness” Products Aren’t Supported by Science

By Hemant Mehta

Gwyneth Paltrow recently sat down for an interview with the BBC, and when the reporter pointed out that many of the products she sells on Goop are in the “area of pseudoscience,” she offered this jaw-dropping defense: “We disagree with that whole-heartedly.

Paltrow also claimed she was met with resistance because she was trying to help women “empower” themselves… by selling them expensive crap with no scientific backing. Of course it’s pseudoscience. Jesus Christ, she sells jade eggs women are supposed to stick up their vaginas in order to “cultivate sexual energy,” “develop and clear chi pathways in the body,” and create “kidney strength.” Good luck finding any of that backed by a paper in a major journal.

But now, Dr. Jen Gunter, a frequent critic of Paltrow and Goop, has done the world a favor and fact-checked every “wellness” product on Goop’s website in order to gauge the amount of pseudoscience on it.

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Stephen Hawking feared race of ‘superhumans’ able to manipulate their own DNA

By Isaac Stanley-Becker

Stephen Hawking, the physicist whose bodily paralysis turned him into a symbol of the soaring power of the human mind, feared a race of “superhumans” capable of manipulating their own evolution.

Before he died in March, the Cambridge University professor predicted that people this century would gain the capacity to edit human traits such as intelligence and aggression. And he worried that the capacity for genetic engineering would be concentrated in the hands of the wealthy.

Hawking mulled this future in a set of essays and articles being published posthumously Tuesday as “Brief Answers to the Big Questions,” a postscript of sorts to his 1988 “A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes,” which has sold more than 10 million copies.

An excerpt released two days in advance by the Sunday Times sheds light on the final musings of the physicist and best-selling author beset by a degenerative motor neuron disease similar to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

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Stephen Hawking’s Final Paper Was Just Released

By Yasemin Saplakoglu

Stephen Hawking’s final paper was just published by his colleagues in the pre-print journal arXiv. The team had completed the research a few days before Hawking’s death in March.

It was the third in a series of papers that dealt with a concept Hawking spent decades pondering: the black hole information paradox. Here’s how it goes:

Black holes are extremely dense, time-space-warping objects that can form when stars collide or giant stars collapse in on themselves. Classical physics suggests that nothing could escape a black hole, even light. But in the 1970s, Hawking proposed that black holes might have a temperature and could slowly leak out quantum particles. This “Hawking radiation” effect means that, eventually, the black hole will evaporate, leaving behind a vacuum that will look the same for each evaporated black hole, no matter what it ate during its lifetime.

This idea posed a problem: During its lifetime, the black hole swallowed a lot of information in the form of celestial objects, but where did that information go? The laws of physics dictate that no information should be lost: If information existed in the past, we should be able to recover it. Hence, the paradox.

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Bigger Moons Have Moons, And Some Are Calling Them ‘Moonmoons’

By David Barden

Have you ever gazed up at the night sky, looked up at the moon and wondered if it could have a moon of its own?

While you probably haven’t, a curious four-year-old did back in 2015 and on Tuesday, his astronomer mom and one of her colleague’s published a paper that essentially says: Yes, a moon can have its own moon.

The Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Juna Kollmeier AKA ‘The Junaverse’ told HuffPost that while none of the planets’ moons in our solar system currently have moons (that we know of), “Earth’s moon, one of Jupiter’s moons and two of Saturn’s moons” may all have once had moons.

But the real question is: what do you call a moon’s moon?

While Kollmeier and astronomer Sean Raymond referred to them as ‘submoons’ in their paper, the New Scientist has dubbed them ‘moonmoons.’

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