science + technology news

Earth-like planets are right next door

Life on such a planet would be "much older and more evolved than life on Earth"
February 7, 2013

cfa_exoplanet_art

Six percent of red-dwarf stars have habitable, Earth-sized planets, astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) have found.

Red dwarfs are the most common stars in our galaxy; about 75 percent of the closest stars are red dwarfs. The closest Earth-like planet could be just 13 light-years away, Harvard astronomer and lead author Courtney Dressing calculated.

“We thought we would have to search… read more

US State Dept. orders removal of 3D-printed gun designs

May 10, 2013

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The U.S. State Department has demanded designs by Defense Distributed for a 3D-printed gun be taken offline because publishing them online may breach arms-control regulations, Forbes reports.

The order to remove the blueprints for the plastic gun comes after they were downloaded more than 100,000 times.

However, the files were actually being served by Mega, the New Zealand-based storage service created by ex-hacker entrepreneur Kim… read more

How to lose 50 years of aging in 16 days

January 3, 2013

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Attention seniors: French scientists have developed a process that permanently dyes white hair without harmful chemicals.

Philippe Walter and colleagues soaked white hairs in a solution containing fluorescent gold nanoparticles.

The hairs turned pale yellow and then darkened to a deep brown. The color remained even after repeated washings.

Using an electron microscope, the scientists confirmed that the particles were forming inside the hairs’ central core cortex.… read more

Existing cropland could feed 4 billion more

An abundant supply of food for a hungry world, hidden in plain sight
August 5, 2013

cropland

Reallocating croplands away from fuels and animal feed could boost food available for people by 70 percent without clearing more land, new research from the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota research shows

The world’s croplands could feed 4 billion more people than they do now just by shifting from producing animal feed and biofuels to producing exclusively food for human consumption,… read more

How to use laser cloaking to hide Earth from remote detection by aliens

NASA's Kepler telescope detects habitable exoplanets by watching for tiny dips in the light from stars. What if aliens have the same idea when observing our Sun?
April 1, 2016

laser for Very Large Telescope-ft

We could use lasers to conceal the Earth from observation by an advanced extraterrestrial civilization by shining massive  laser beams aimed at a specific star where aliens might be located — thus masking our planet during its transit of the Sun, suggest two astronomers at Columbia University in an open-access paper in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The idea comes from the NASAread more

NSA admits wrongly adding 16,000 phone numbers to ‘alert list’

September 11, 2013

NSA

The National Security Agency admitted in documents released Tuesday that it had wrongly put 16,000 phone numbers on an “alert list” so their incoming calls could be monitored, a mistake that a judge on the secret surveillance court called a “flagrant violation” of the law, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the… read more

Given tablets but no teachers, Ethiopian children teach themselves

October 29, 2012

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Earlier this year, OLPC workers dropped off closed boxes containing the tablets, taped shut, with no instruction. “I thought the kids would play with the boxes. Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, found the on-off switch … powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child, per day.

Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs in the village, and within five months, they had hacked Android,” Negroponte said. “Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera, and they figured out the camera, and had hacked Android.” ….read more

Photosynthesis hack needed to feed the world by 2050

March 27, 2015

transforming crops ft.

High-performance computing and genetic engineering could boost crop photosynthetic efficiency enough to feed a planet expected to have 9.5 billion people on it by 2050, researchers report in an open-access paper in the journal Cell.

“We now know every step in the processes that drive photosynthesis in plants such as soybeans and maize,” said University of Illinois plant biology professor Stephen P. Long, who wrote… read more

The more science you know, the less worried you are about climate

May 30, 2012

Iceberg

Americans with higher levels of scientific and mathematical knowledge are more skeptical regarding the dangers of climate change than their more poorly educated fellow citizens, a U.S. National Science Foundation-funded study has found.

The results of the survey are especially remarkable as the researchers were doing so from the position that the “scientific consensus” (carbon-driven global warming is ongoing and extremely dangerous) is a settled fact, and the priority is… read more

High-carb foods associated with cognitive impairment: Mayo Clinic study

Those 70-plus who ate food high in fat and protein fared better cognitively, research showed
October 17, 2012

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People 70 and older who eat food high in carbohydrates have nearly four times the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment, and the danger also rises with a diet heavy in sugar, Mayo Clinic researchers have found.

Those who consume a lot of protein and fat relative to carbohydrates are less likely to become cognitively impaired, the study found.

Researchers tracked 1,230 people ages… read more

Evidence that our Sun could release ‘superflares’ 1000x greater than previously recorded

Could release energy equivalent to a billion megaton bombs, potentially disastrous for life on Earth
December 2, 2015

SUN_B & BORDER: What the Sun might look like if it were to produce a superflare. A large flaring coronal loop structure is shown towering over a solar active region (credit: University of Warwick/Ronald Warmington)

Astrophysicists have discovered a stellar “superflare” on a star observed by NASA’s Kepler space telescope with wave patterns similar to those that have been observed in the Sun’s solar flares. (Superflares are flares that are thousands of times more powerful than those ever recorded on the Sun, and are frequently observed on some stars.)

The scientists found the evidence in the star KIC9655129 in the Milky Way. They suggest… read more

‘NAFTA on Steroids’: secret agreements to censor the Internet

September 8, 2012

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Negotiators from the U.S. and eight other Pacific Rim countries are meeting at a seclude resort in Leesburg, Viriginia, working out deals in the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement that could hamper free speech on the Internet, Common Dreams reports.

The negotiations began in 2007 and have been carried through by the Obama administration and several Pacific nations under conditions of “extreme secrecy” without press, public, or policymaker oversight.

Leaked information… read more

‘The future might be a hoot’: how Iain M. Banks imagines Utopia

January 23, 2013

The-Hydrogen-Sonata

For 25 years, Scottish science fiction writer Iain M. Banks, author of the Culture Series, has been writing about a utopian post-scarcity civilization managed by artificially intelligent drones known as Minds, and preoccupied by artificial intelligence, games, and interactions with other civilizations.

In the latest novel published in October, The Hydrogen Sonata, a civilization known as the Gzilt are making preparations to Sublime — in… read more

The age of enhancement

March 5, 2013

amazing-spiderman

Technology is starting to give us superpowers once reserved for comic-book heroes, Slate reports.

Human enhancement is happening all the time, largely through incremental improvements on existing technologies.

Wearable technology is taking off. Muscle suits are starting to look more plausible. The military is working on “Spider-Man suits” that let the wearer scale vertical walls.

Devices that interact directly… read more

A real-life ‘holodeck’ in 10 years?

January 17, 2013

The holodeck of the USS Enterprise (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

According to software expert Tim Huckaby, we’re on the verge of a science-fiction-like future where doctors manipulate molecules in three-dimensional (3-D) space, augmented music players tune into your thoughts, and retailers deliver coupons in real time based on the focus of your gaze across store shelves, Smart Planet reports.

His predictions for what’s possible within the next 10 years include a functioning “holodeck” (as in Star Trek)… read more

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