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Dark Matter Grows Hair Around Stars and Planets ( 146

StartsWithABang writes: Dark matter may make up 27% of the Universe's energy density, compared to just 5% of normal (atomic) matter, but in our Solar System, it's notoriously sparse. In particular, there's just a nanogram's worth per cubic kilometer, which makes the fact that we've never directly detected it seem inevitable. But recent work has demonstrated that Earth and all the planets leave a "wake" of dark matter where the density is enhanced by a billion times or more. Time to go put those dark matter detectors where they belong: in the path of these dark matter hairs.

Lori Garver Claims That NASA Is 'Wary' of Elon Musk's Mars Plans ( 97

MarkWhittington writes: Ars Technica reports that former NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver claimed, during a panel discussion at the Council for Foreign Relations, that many at NASA are "wary" of the Mars ambitions of SpaceX's Elon Musk. While the space agency has yielded low Earth operations to the commercial sector as part of the commercial crew program, it reserves for itself deep space exploration. Garver herself disagrees with that sentiment: "I thought, fundamentally, you just don’t understand. We’re not in a race in a swimming pool where everyone is racing against one another. We're in a cycling race where the government is riding point and the others are drafting behind us, and if someone comes alongside us and can pass us because they’ve found a better way, we don’t get out our tire pump and stick it between their spokes."

The Moon's Two Sides Look So Different Thanks To 4.5 Billion-Year-Old Physics ( 93

StartsWithABang writes: 4.5 billion years ago, a giant object collided with our proto-Earth, kicking up debris that eventually coalesced into the Moon. While the near side contains dark maria and lunar lowlands, the far side is almost exclusive heavily cratered, high-mountainous regions. This was a mystery for a long time, but it appears that heating from the hot, young Earth caused a chemical and crustal difference between the two faces.

Pesticides Turn Bumblebees Into Poor Pollinators ( 93

MTorrice writes about a new study that suggests neonicotinoids, one of the most widely used insecticides in the world, turn bumblebees into poor pollinators, leading to lower yields of apples and other plants. Chemical & Engineering News reports: "Neonicotinoid pesticides have been blamed for declines in bee populations worldwide. The chemicals don't kill bees, instead neonicotinoids impair the insects' abilities to learn, navigate, forage for nectar, and reproduce, according to studies published over the past several years. Now, researchers report that bees exposed to the pesticides also become less effective pollinators for crops. The study is the first to demonstrate that neonicotinoids can decrease the quality of a food crop by affecting bee pollination. About 30% of our food comes from crops, including fruits, nuts, seeds, and oils, that depend on insect pollinators, according to Dara A. Stanley of Royal Holloway, University of London, who led the new study. 'Basically,' she says, 'you can't have a balanced diet without insect pollination.'"

First Images Ever Taken of a Planet Being Formed, 450 Light-Years From Earth ( 36

Zothecula writes: Of the many new exoplanets discovered over the past two decades, all have been identified as established, older planets – none have been acknowledged as newly-forming protoplanets. Now scientists working at the Keck observatory have spied just such a planet in the constellation of Taurus, some 450 light-years from Earth (abstract), that is only just beginning its life, collecting matter and spinning into a brand new world.

The Information Theory of Life ( 90

An anonymous reader writes with this story about Michigan State University Professor Cristop Adami and his quest to answer how life arose with mathematics. From the Quanta story: "Christoph Adami does not know how life got started, but he knows a lot of other things. His main expertise is in information theory, a branch of applied mathematics developed in the 1940s for understanding information transmissions over a wire. Since then, the field has found wide application, and few researchers have done more in that regard than Adami, who is a professor of physics and astronomy and also microbiology and molecular genetics at Michigan State University. He takes the analytical perspective provided by information theory and transplants it into a great range of disciplines, including microbiology, genetics, physics, astronomy and neuroscience. Lately, he's been using it to pry open a statistical window onto the circumstances that might have existed at the moment life first clicked into place.

To do this, he begins with a mental leap: Life, he argues, should not be thought of as a chemical event. Instead, it should be thought of as information. The shift in perspective provides a tidy way in which to begin tackling a messy question. In the following interview, Adami defines information as 'the ability to make predictions with a likelihood better than chance,' and he says we should think of the human genome — or the genome of any organism — as a repository of information about the world gathered in small bits over time through the process of evolution. The repository includes information on everything we could possibly need to know, such as how to convert sugar into energy, how to evade a predator on the savannah, and, most critically for evolution, how to reproduce or self-replicate."

Could a Change In Wording Attract More Women To Infosec? ( 291

itwbennett writes: "Information security is an endeavor that is frequently described in terms of war," writes Lysa Myers. "But what would the gender balance of this industry be like if we used more terms from other disciplines?" Just 14 percent of U.S. federal government personnel in cybersecurity specialties are women, a number startlingly close to the 14.5 percent of active duty military members who are women (at least as of 2013). By comparison, women are well represented in other STEM fields: "As of 2011, women earn 60 percent of bachelor-level biology degrees. Women also earn between 40 and 50 percent of chemistry, mathematics and statistics, and Earth sciences undergraduate degrees," writes Myers. Why the difference? Myers points to a comment from someone who taught a GenCyber camp for girls: "He found that one effective way to get girls to feel passionate about security was to create an emotional connection with the subject: e.g. the shock and distress of seeing your drone hacked or your password exposed," writes Myers.

Inside the Mission To Europa ( 106

An anonymous reader writes: Ars Technica details the political and engineering battles being waged to make it possible for NASA to land a probe on Jupiter's moon Europa. They have new information about mission plans; it sounds ambitious, to say the least. "First, the bad news. Adding a lander to the Clipper will require additional technical work and necessitate a launch delay until late 2023. At that time, the massive Space Launch System rocket NASA is developing could deliver it to Jupiter in 4.6 years. Once there, the lander would separate from the Clipper, parking in a low-radiation orbit.

The Clipper would then proceed to reconnoiter Europa, diving into the harsh radiation environment to observe the moon and then zipping back out into cleaner space to relay its data back to Earth. Over a three-year period, the Clipper would image 95 percent of the world at about 50 meters per pixel and three percent at a very high resolution of 0.5 meters per pixel. With this data, scientists could find a suitable landing site. ...The JPL engineers have concluded the best way to deliver the lander to Europa's jagged surface is by way of a sky crane mechanism, like the one successfully used in the last stage of Curiosity's descent to the surface of Mars. With four steerable engines and an autonomous system to avoid hazards, the lander would be lowered to the moon's surface by an umbilical cord."


This October Was the Hottest Ever Measured ( 369

GregLaden writes: Scientists track the global surface temperature, an average of readings from thermometers at approximately head height, and an estimate of sea surface temperatures, in order to track global warming. Over the last year or so we have been seeing many record-breaking months. Now, both the Japan Meteorological Agency and NASA have identified October as an extraordinary month. October 2016 is significantly warmer than any other in the NASA record, which goes back to 1880.

Grow Your Daily Protein At Home With an Edible Insect Desktop Hive 381 writes: Fast Coexist reports on the Edible Insect Desktop Hive, a kitchen gadget designed to raise mealworms (beetle larva), a food that has the protein content of beef without the environmental footprint. The hive can grow between 200 and 500 grams of mealworms a week, enough to replace traditional meat in four or five dishes. The hive comes with a starter kit of "microlivestock," and controls the climate inside so the bugs have the right amount of fresh air and the right temperature to thrive. If you push a button, the mealworms pop out in a harvest drawer that chills them. You're supposed to pop them in the freezer, then fry them up or mix them into soup, smoothies, or bug-filled burgers. "Insects give us the opportunity to grow on small spaces, with few resources," says designer Katharina Unger, founder of Livin Farms, the company making the new home farming gadget. "A pig cannot easily be raised on your balcony, insects can. With their benefits, insects are one part of the solution to make currently inefficient industrial-scale production of meat obsolete."

Of course, that assumes people will be willing to eat them. Unger thinks bugs just need a little rebranding to succeed, and points out that other foods have overcome bad reputations in the past. "Even the potato, that is now a staple food, was once considered ugly and was given to pigs," says Unger adding that sushi, raw fish, and tofu were once considered obscure products. "Food is about perception and cultural associations. Within only a short time and the right measures, it can be rebranded. . . . Growing insects in our hive at home is our first measure to make insects a healthy and sustainable food for everyone."

World's First "Porous Liquid" Could Be Used For CO2 Sequestration ( 91

Zothecula sends word that scientists have developed the world's first "porous" liquid that can potentially be used to capture carbon emissions. Gizmag reports: "The Italians have a colorful expression – to make a hole in water – to describe an effort with no hope of succeeding. Researchers at Queen's University Belfast (QUB), however, have seemingly managed the impossible, creating a class of liquids that feature permanent holes at the molecular level. The properties of the new materials are still largely unknown, but what has been gleaned so far suggests they could be used for more convenient carbon capturing or as a molecular sieve to quickly separate different gases."

Earth May Have Kept Its Own Water Rather Than Getting It From Asteroids ( 45

sciencehabit writes: Carl Sagan famously dubbed Earth the 'pale blue dot' for our planet's abundant water. But where this water came from—and when it arrived—has been a longstanding debate. Many scientists argue that Earth formed as a dry planet, and gained its water millions of years later through the impact of water-bearing asteroids or comets. But now, scientists say that Earth may have had water from the start, inheriting it directly from the swirling nebula that gave birth to the solar system. If true, the results suggest that water-rich planets may abound in the universe.
Operating Systems

SteamOS Gaming Performance Lags Well Behind Windows ( 184

New submitter NotDrWho writes: As reported by Ars Technica: "With this week's official launch of Valve's Linux-based Steam Machine line (for non-pre-orders), we decided to see if the new OS could stand up to the established Windows standard when running games on the same hardware. Unfortunately for open source gaming supporters, it looks like SteamOS gaming comes with a significant performance hit on a number of benchmarks." They tested with two graphically intensive titles from 2014, Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor and Metro: Last Light Redux. They say, "we got anywhere from 21- to 58-percent fewer frames per second, depending on the graphical settings. On our hardware running Shadow of Mordor at Ultra settings and HD resolution, the OS change alone was the difference between a playable 34.5 fps average on Windows and a stuttering 14.6 fps mess on SteamOS." Even most of Valve's own games took big performance hits when running under SteamOS.

Windows 3.1 Glitch Causes Problems At French Airport -- Wait, 3.1? ( 406

OakDragon writes: Microsoft has tamped down the earth on XP's grave, steered Internet Explorer toward the nursing home, and is trying to convince everyone Windows 10 is a bright up-and-comer. But in the Paris airport of Orly, a system called DECOR — which helps air traffic controllers relay weather information to pilots — is running on Windows 3.1. That program suffered a glitch recently that grounded planes for some time. The airport actually runs on a variety of old systems, including Windows XP and UNIX. Maintenance is a problem. There are only three people in Paris that work on DECOR issues, and one of them is retiring soon. Hardware is also an issue. "Sometimes we have to go rummaging on eBay to replace certain parts," said Fiacre. "In any case, these machines were not designed to keep working for more than 20 years."

Comet Catalina To Pass By Earth For the Final Time 54

StartsWithABang writes: Originating from the Kuiper belt and the Oort cloud, comets are generally thought of as periodic objects, with their initial trajectories having been perturbed by either Neptune, another distant object or a passing star or rogue planet. But most comets aren't periodic; they're transient instead, where a trip into the inner Solar System gives them additional gravitational perturbations, causing them to either fly into the Sun or gain enough kinetic energy to escape entirely. This latter fate is the case for Comet Catalina, which reaches perihelion on November 15th and then heads out of the Solar System after putting on one final show for observers on Earth.

The Two Modern Space Races ( 99

MarkWhittington writes: Observers of the current state of the space program like to maintain that a space race, such as occurred in the 1960s, will never happen again. They cannot be farther from the truth, since not just one, but two space races are going on. The Google Lunar X Prize is managing a race for the first private group to land a rover on the lunar surface and perform a number of tasks for glory and prize money. Eric Berger at Ars Technica pointed out that another prize space race, with the goal of performing the first private crewed space mission in low Earth orbit, is ongoing thanks to NASA's commercial crew program.

Icy Volcanoes May Erupt On Pluto ( 32

An anonymous reader writes: The New Horizons probe may have discovered two possible ice volcanoes on the surface of Pluto. "These are two really extraordinary features. Nothing like this has ever been seen in the solar system." Oliver White, a New Horizons postdoctoral researcher with NASA's Ames Research Center in California said. The mountains have been informally named Wright Mons and Picard Mons, and at their crests, each peak hosts a central crater, reminiscent of peaks called "shield volcanoes" on Earth. "Whatever they are, they're definitely weird" — 'volcanoes' is the least weird hypothesis at the moment," White says.

Persian Gulf Temperatures May Be At the Edge of Human Tolerance In 30 Years ( 488

An anonymous reader writes: According to a new climate study the Persian Gulf may become so hot and humid in the next 30 years that it will reach the threshold of human survivability. Ars reports: "Existing climate models have shown that a global temperature increase to the threshold of human survivability would be reached in some regions of the globe at a point in the distant future. However, a new paper published by Jeremy Pal and Elfatih Eltahir in Nature Climate Change presents evidence that this deadly combination of heat and humidity increases could occur in the Persian Gulf much earlier than previously anticipated."
United Kingdom

British Spaceplane Skylon Could Revolutionize Space Travel ( 226

MarkWhittington writes: The problem of lowering the cost of sending people and cargo into low Earth orbit has vexed engineers since the dawn of the space age. Currently, the only way to go into space is on top of multistage rockets which toss off pieces of themselves as they ascend higher into the heavens. The Conversation touted a British project, called Skylon, which many believe will help to address the problem of costly space travel. According to IEEE Spectrum, both BAE Systems and the British government have infused Skylon with $120 million in investment.

3D Printed Objects Found Toxic To Fish Embryos ( 108

itwbennett writes: Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have found that the parts of two common types of 3D printers are toxic to zebrafish embryos. The researchers made this discovery accidentally when a graduate student whose work involves developing tools for studying zebrafish embryos "noticed that zebrafish embryos die after exposure to parts from the 3-D printer." According to the report, "While the embryos exposed to parts from the plastic-melting printer had slightly decreased average survival rates compared to control embryos, the embryos exposed to parts from the liquid-resin printer had significantly decreased survival rates, with more than half of the embryos dead by day three and all dead by day seven. And of the few zebrafish embryos that hatched after exposure to parts from the liquid-resin printer, 100 percent of the hatchlings had developmental abnormalities."