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Showing posts from October 28, 2015

Zap happy: electric eels innovative in subduing hapless prey

By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - When it comes to unleashing their trademark zaps, electric eels employ an impressive and sophisticated set of tactics. A study unveiled on Wednesday detailed how these dangerous denizens of the muddy waterways of South America's Amazon and Orinoco basins can double the voltage of their jolts by curling their serpentine bodies to adjust the position of the positive and negative poles of their electric organ. The scientist who conducted the research also described how the eels use electrical pulses as a radar system to track prey as well as to immobilize prey by causing strong, involuntary muscle contractions in an electrifying form of remote control.


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Spacecraft to sample water plumes from Saturn moon

By Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla (REUTERS) - A U.S. spacecraft was poised to make a deep dive into plumes of water, ice and organic matter blasting from Saturn's small, ocean-bearing moon Enceladus, in an effort to learn if it could support life, NASA said on Wednesday. Only a drop of water will be collected during the 19,000 mph (30,600 kph) flyby, which is scheduled to take place about 1 p.m. EDT. Scientists say that will be enough to answer some key questions about Enceladus, which has a global ocean sealed beneath its icy surface.

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Modern Mystery: Ancient Comet Is Spewing Oxygen

The Rosetta spacecraft has detected molecular oxygen in the gas streaming off comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, a curious finding that has scientists rethinking the ingredients that were present in the early solar system. What's mystifying astronomers about the new find is why the oxygen wasn't annihilated during the solar system's formation. Molecular oxygen is extremely reactive with hydrogen, which was swirling in abundance as the sun and planets were created.


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Rookie Spacewalkers Perform Critical Space Station Work

NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren successfully completed their first-ever spacewalks today (Oct. 28), completing a handful of tasks vital to the International Space Station's longterm endurance. NASA's 32nd International Space Station (ISS) spacewalk officially started at 8:03 a.m. ET (1203 GMT) and lasted for 7 hours and 16 minutes as Kelly and Lindgren performed a handful of important maintenance tasks, including putting additional shielding over a science experiment, lubricating the station's robotic arm and rerouting cables to a future docking site for commercial spacecraft.


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Spacewalkers prep station for space taxi parking spots

By Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - Two U.S. astronauts wrapped up nearly seven hours of electrical work and maintenance chores outside the International Space Station on Wednesday, part of an ongoing upgrade to prepare the outpost for new commercial space taxis. Station commander Scott Kelly and flight engineer Kjell Lindgren left the station's airlock around 8:30 a.m. Eastern time (1230 GMT), the first spacewalk for both astronauts. NASA had hoped to have the station outfitted with two new berthing slips before the end of the year so that commercial space taxis under development by Boeing and privately owned Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, would have places to park.

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Dog robot copes with tough terrain

By Jim Drury Swiss researchers have built an electrically actuated, walking, climbing, running four-legged robot that can handle difficult terrain. The 'dog' robot is called StarlETH - its name pronounced 'Starlet' and featuring the acronym for the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH). According to lead researcher Marco Hutter, "it's meant to be a robot that can climb over obstacles, so being very versatile.

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Watch This Amazing World View Test Flight for Balloon-Based Space Tourism

Arizona-based World View Enterprises, which aims to loft paying customers to the stratosphere beneath a giant balloon, launched an uncrewed test flight Saturday (Oct. 26). "This test flight is symbolic of a major step towards a new era of accessible space travel for us all," World View CEO and co-founder Jane Poynter said in a statement. Saturday's trial demonstrated that World View's system can lift off gently, successfully transition from balloon floating to aerodynamic parafoil flight at high altitudes, and descend and land smoothly, company representatives said.


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New Disk of Young Stars Found in Milky Way

A group of young stars has been caught loitering near the center of the Milky Way galaxy, a region previously thought to be dominated by a more mature population. Astronomers say the stars form a disk (previously unknown to scientists) that passes through the outer part of the dusty, peanut-shaped bulge at the galactic center. The thick forest of dust located at the Milky Way's galactic center is a place where even the bright flame of a burning star can be nearly impossible for astronomers to see.


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DIY Halloween Costumes: 7 Geeky Getups for Any Party

With Halloween less than a week away, science nerds everywhere are scrambling to put the finishing touches on their costumes. A Halloween costume depicting dark matter can pretty much look however you want it to look, because no one knows what dark matter really is. Adorn yourself in these articles of clothing, and then slink around the party, saying mysterious things like, "Are my axions showing?" Also, be sure to do a lot of unpredictable things, like grab people and hold them in one place (explain that dark matter was once believed to be a sort of "glue" that held galaxies in place) and then push them away (explain that astronomers are no longer sure that dark matter actually serves as an anchor for anything).


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290-Million-Year-Old Creature Could Sprout New Limbs

If an ancient amphibian lost a limb or a tail, it could simply sprout a new one, according to researchers who found fossil evidence of limb regeneration dating back 290 million years. The finding shows that some Carboniferous and Permian period animals had regenerative abilities a full 80 million years before salamanders, one of the few modern-day animal groups that can fully regenerate their limbs and tail, existed in the fossil record. The fact that other tetrapods — a group comprised of four-legged vertebrates, including amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds — had regenerative abilities suggests there are multiple ways to regrow limbs, said study lead researcher Nadia Fröbisch, a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum in Berlin.


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Google Can Help You Find the Perfect Halloween Costume

Not sure what to be for Halloween? Google may be able to help. A new Google Trends tool shows you what costumes are popular right now in your area and around the country, so you can be sure to wear something more original than, say, a Stormtrooper costume to this weekend's festivities.


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What Would an Alien Megastructure Look Like? Sci-Fi Authors Weigh In

Researchers aren't sure what's going on, and they have posited that some sort of light-blocking "alien megastructure" is a possible — though unlikely — explanation. "We are the most skeptical people on the planet," Robert J. Sawyer, a Canadian sci-fi writer who regularly discusses alien life in his novels, told Space.com. Sawyer added that journalists, by contrast, often pump up the news because they "smell front page." And while Sawyer supports the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) because it is so cheap to listen for radio signals, he said it's meaningful that, in five decades of searching, nothing has come up so far.


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For 'The Ordinary Spaceman' Clayton Anderson, Astronaut Life Is Anything But

When Clayton Anderson began to write about his 30-year NASA career, he was warned that astronaut memoirs are "a dime a dozen, and all the same." But that didn't deter him — and his new book is far from an "ordinary" space narrative. In "The Ordinary Spaceman: From Boyhood Dreams to Astronaut" (University of Nebraska Press, 2015), Anderson traces his childhood, career, 15 applications to the astronaut training program and, finally, his training and two flights to space (one of which was a long-duration flight), Anderson covers his daily activities and unusual experiences with detailed and humorous observations. In a recent interview, Space.com caught up with Anderson to hear more about his new memoir, the challenges of being an astronaut and unusual space pastimes.


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Einstein Is Right About General Relativity — Again

Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity has been proven right again — and this time, physicists have pinned down just how precise it is: Any deviations from his theory of general relativity are so small that they would change calculations by just one part in 10,000 to one part in 100,000. Time after time, experiments have proved that Einstein's theory of general relativity, which describes the way gravity behaves, especially when dealing with high speeds and large masses. In the new study, physicists looked at gobs of data on planetary orbits to look for tiny anomalies that couldn't be explained by either Isaac Newton's theory of gravity — in which gravity is a force between objects that depends on their masses — or Einstein's general relativity theory, which says gravity is a warping of space-time itself.


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Gem-Filled Warrior's Tomb Discovered in Ancient Greek City

Archaeologists who thought they were excavating the site of an ancient house in Greece recently uncovered something much more rare: a wealthy Bronze Age warrior's tomb, chock-full of precious metals and colorful gemstones. The tomb, which dates back some 3,500 years to 1500 B.C., was found by an international group of researchers led by archaeologists from the University of Cincinnati. Gold cups and jewelry, as well as hundreds of beads made from precious stones like amethyst and jasper, also surrounded the remains of the deceased Mycenaean warrior, who once lived near what is now the city of Pylos, on the southwest coast of Greece.


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Record-Breaking 408 Earthquakes Hit Bay Area City Over Past 2 Weeks

A whopping 408 earthquakes have hit San Ramon, California, in the past two weeks, including 11 in one 24-hour stretch. This record-breaking earthquake swarm is nothing to fear, however, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Periods of tectonic unrest are common in the area and probably don't presage a larger quake, the USGS said.


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