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Mars

Elon Musk: We Must Put a Million People On Mars To Safeguard Humanity 11

Posted by Soulskill
from the let's-send-them-to-saturn-instead dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Elon Musk's ambitions for SpaceX keep getting bigger. First he wanted to make the trip to Mars affordable, then he wanted to establish a city-sized colony, and now he's got his eye on the future of humanity. Musk says we need a million people on Mars to form a "sustainable, genetically diverse civilization" that can survive as humanity's insurance policy. He continued, "Even at a million, you're really assuming an incredible amount of productivity per person, because you would need to recreate the entire industrial base on Mars. You would need to mine and refine all of these different materials, in a much more difficult environment than Earth. There would be no trees growing. There would be no oxygen or nitrogen that are just there. No oil." How fast could we do it? Within a century, once the spacecraft reusability problem is solved. "Excluding organic growth, if you could take 100 people at a time, you would need 10,000 trips to get to a million people. But you would also need a lot of cargo to support those people. In fact, your cargo to person ratio is going to be quite high. It would probably be 10 cargo trips for every human trip, so more like 100,000 trips. And we're talking 100,000 trips of a giant spaceship."
Earth

Antarctic Ice Loss Big Enough To Cause Measurable Shift In Earth's Gravity 112

Posted by Soulskill
from the let-the-ice-flow dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Contrary to what we were sometimes taught in high school physics, the Earth's gravity is not constant. It actually shows slight variations on different parts of the Earth's surface, and the variations correlate with the density of the material on that surface. The European Space Agency has been measuring gravity for four years, mapping these variations and recording the changes those variations have undergone. Its data indicates "a significant decrease [in gravity] in the region of Antarctica where land ice is melting fastest. Further analysis is, of course, planned so that the whole of Antarctica can be taken into account and "the clearest picture yet of the pace of global warming" can be determined on that continent.
Space

Mysterious Feature Appears and Disappears In a Sea On Titan 40

Posted by Soulskill
from the interplanetary-game-of-battleship dept.
schwit1 writes: Cassini images taken in 2007, 2013, and 2014 of one of Titan's largest hydrocarbon seas find that a mysterious feature there keeps appearing and disappearing. Quoting: "The mysterious feature, which appears bright in radar images against the dark background of the liquid sea, was first spotted during Cassini's July 2013 Titan flyby. Previous observations showed no sign of bright features in that part of Ligeia Mare. Scientists were perplexed to find the feature had vanished when they looked again, over several months, with low-resolution radar and Cassini's infrared imager. This led some team members to suggest it might have been a transient feature. But during Cassini's flyby on August 21, 2014, the feature was again visible, and its appearance had changed during the 11 months since it was last seen.

Scientists on the radar team are confident that the feature is not an artifact, or flaw, in their data, which would have been one of the simplest explanations. They also do not see evidence that its appearance results from evaporation in the sea, as the overall shoreline of Ligeia Mare has not changed noticeably. The team has suggested the feature could be surface waves, rising bubbles, floating solids, solids suspended just below the surface, or perhaps something more exotic." That the seasons are slowly changing on Titan is probably contributing to the transient nature of this feature.
Space

Are the World's Religions Ready For ET? 316

Posted by Soulskill
from the Alf-as-messiah dept.
Science_afficionado writes: At the current rate of discovery, astronomers will have identified more than a million exoplanets by the year 2045. That means, if life is at all common in the Milky Way, astronomers could soon detect it. Realization that the nature of the debate about life on other worlds is about to fundamentally change, lead Vanderbilt astronomer David Weintraub to begin thinking seriously about how people will react to such a discovery. He realized that people's reactions will be heavily influenced by their religious beliefs, so he decided to find out what theologians and leaders from the world's major religions have to say about the matter. The result is a book titled Religions and Extraterrestrial Life, published by Springer this month. He discovered that from Baptists to Buddhists, from Catholics to Mormons, from Islam to the Anglican Communion, religious views on alien life differ widely.
Hardware Hacking

Arducorder, Next Open Source Science Tricorder-like Device, Nears Completion 41

Posted by Soulskill
from the scanning-for-life-forms dept.
upontheturtlesback writes: The Arducorder Mini, an Arduino-compatible pocket-sized handheld sensing tool and the next in line of open source science tricorder-like devices designed by Dr. Peter Jansen, is nearing completion. Where the previous models have included about a dozen sensors spanning atmospheric, electromagnetic, and spatial readings, an exciting video of the new prototype shows this model includes sensors for spectroscopy, low-resolution thermal imaging, and radiation sensing. The development is open with the project build logs and most recent source schematics, board layouts, and firmware available on github. This project is an entry in the Hack a Day Prize for a trip to space.
Businesses

Kano Ships 18,000 Learn-To-Code Computer Kits 51

Posted by samzenpus
from the good-start dept.
drkim writes Kano Computing is a startup that plays in the learn-to-code space by adding a step-by-step, hand-holding layer atop the Raspberry Pi to make learning about computational thinking child's play. Kano has now shipped all the hardware kits in its first batch of crowdfunded orders and pre-orders. That's around 18,000 kits in all, co-founder Alex Klein confirmed to TechCrunch. The lion's share of the first batch of Kano kits — almost 13,000 kits — were ordered via its Kickstarter campaign last year, with a further 5,000 pre-orders taken via its website. The kits cost $99 (plus shipping) to crowdfunder backers, or around $160 (plus shipping) if pre-ordered on the Kano website. The company plans to focus on selling mainly via its own web channel from here on in, according to Alex.
Sci-Fi

The Physics of Space Battles 442

Posted by samzenpus
from the dodging-the-laser dept.
An anonymous reader writes PBS' It's OK to be Smart made this interesting video showing us what is and isn't physically realistic or possible in the space battles we've watched on TV and the movies. From the article: "You're probably aware that most sci-fi space battles aren't realistic. The original Star Wars' Death Star scene was based on a World War II movie, for example. But have you wondered what it would really be like to duke it out in the void? PBS is more than happy to explain in its latest It's Okay To Be Smart video. As you'll see below, Newtonian physics would dictate battles that are more like Asteroids than the latest summer blockbuster. You'd need to thrust every time you wanted to change direction, and projectiles would trump lasers (which can't focus at long distances); you wouldn't hear any sound, either."
Technology

Why the Z-80's Data Pins Are Scrambled 165

Posted by Soulskill
from the causing-frustration-is-a-valid-design-strategy dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Z-80 microprocessor has been around since 1976, and it was used in many computers at the beginning of the PC revolution. (For example, the TRS-80, Commodore 128, and ZX Spectrum.) Ken Shirriff has been working on reverse engineering the Z-80, and one of the things he noticed is that the data pins coming out of the chip are in seemingly random order: 4, 3, 5, 6, 2, 7, 0, 1. (And a +5V pin is stuck in the middle.) After careful study, he's come up with an explanation for this seemingly odd design. "The motivation behind splitting the data bus is to allow the chip to perform activities in parallel. For instance an instruction can be read from the data pins into the instruction logic at the same time that data is being copied between the ALU and registers.

[B]ecause the Z-80 splits the data bus into multiple segments, only four data lines run to the lower right corner of the chip. And because the Z-80 was very tight for space, running additional lines would be undesirable. Next, the BIT instructions use instruction bits 3, 4, and 5 to select a particular bit. This was motivated by the instruction structure the Z-80 inherited from the 8080. Finally, the Z-80's ALU requires direct access to instruction bits 3, 4, and 5 to select the particular data bit. Putting these factors together, data pins 3, 4, and 5 are constrained to be in the lower right corner of the chip next to the ALU. This forces the data pins to be out of sequence, and that's why the Z-80 has out-of-order data pins."
Moon

Astrophysicists Use Apollo Seismic Array To Hunt For Gravitational Waves 25

Posted by Soulskill
from the where-in-the-moon-is-carmen-sandiego dept.
KentuckyFC writes: Back in the 1970s, the astronauts from Apollos 12, 14, 15, and 16 set up an array of seismometers on the lunar surface to listen for moonquakes. This array sent back data until 1977, when NASA switched it off. Now astrophysicists are using this lunar seismic data in the hunt for gravitational waves. The idea is that gravitational waves must squeeze and stretch the Moon as they pass by and that at certain resonant frequencies, this could trigger the kind of seismic groans that the array ought to have picked up. However, the data shows no evidence of activity at the relevant frequencies.

That's important because it has allowed astronomers to put the strongest limits yet on the strength of gravitational waves in this part of the universe. Earlier this year, the same team used a similar approach with terrestrial seismic data to strengthen the existing limits by 9 orders of magnitude. The lunar data betters this by yet another order of magnitude because there is no noise from sources such as oceans, the atmosphere and plate tectonics. The work shows that good science on gravitational waves can be done without spending the hundreds of millions of dollars for bespoke gravitational wave detectors, such as LIGO, which have yet to find any evidence of the waves either.
ISS

Expedition 42 ISS Crew Embraces Douglas Adams 39

Posted by Soulskill
from the then,-after-a-second-or-so,-nothing-continued-to-happen dept.
SchrodingerZ writes: In November of this year, the 42nd Expedition to the International Space Station will launch, and the crew has decided to embrace their infamous number. NASA has released an image of the crew mimicking the movie poster for The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, a film released in 2005, based on a book with the same name by Douglas Adams. Commander Butch Wilmore stands in the center as protagonist Arthur Dent, flight engineer Elena Serova as hitchhiker Ford Prefect, flight engineer Alexander Samokutyayev as antagonist Humma Kavula, astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti as Trillian, and flight engineers Terry Virts and Anton Shkaplerov as two-headed galactic president Zaphod Beeblebrox. The robotic "Robonaut 2" also stands in the picture as Marvin the depressed android. Cristoforetti, ecstatic to be part of this mission stated, "Enjoy, don't panic and always know where your towel is!" Wilmore, Serova and Samokutyayev blasted off September 25th for Expedition 41, the rest of Expedition 42 will launch November 23rd.
Displays

Acer Launches First 4K Panel With NVIDIA G-Sync Technology On Board 64

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-the-pixels dept.
MojoKid writes: Save for a smattering of relatively small, 3K and 4K laptop displays, we haven't quite gotten to the same type of pixel density on the PC platform, that is available on today's high-end ultra-mobile devices. That said, the desktop display space has really heated up as of late and 4K panels have generated a large part of the buzz. Acer just launched the first 4K display with NVIDIA G-Sync technology on board. To put it simply, G-SYNC keeps a display and the output from an NVIDIA GPU in sync, regardless of frame rates or whether or not V-Sync is enabled. Instead of the monitor controlling the timing and refreshing at say 60Hz, the timing control is transferred to the GPU. The GPU scans a frame out to the monitor and the monitor doesn't update until a frame is done drawing, in lock-step with the GPU. This method completely eliminates tearing or frame stuttering associated with synchronization anomalies of standard panels. There are still some quirks with Windows and many applications that don't always scale properly on high-DPI displays, but the situation is getting better every day. If you're a gamer in the market for a 4K display, that's primed for gaming, the Acer XB280HK is a decent new option with this technology on board, though it does come at a bit of a premium at $799 versus standard 28-inch panels.
NASA

NASA Expands Commercial Space Program 24

Posted by Soulskill
from the powered-by-capitalism dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Just 10 days after NASA awarded multi-billion-dollar contracts to SpaceX and Boeing for future manned rocket launches, the agency announced today it is expanding its commercial space program to include contracts for delivery missions to the International Space Station. "Under the Commercial Resupply Services 2 RFP, NASA intends to award contracts with one or more companies for six or more flights per contract. As with current resupply flights, these missions would launch from U.S. spaceports, and the contracted services would include logistical and research cargo delivery and return to and from the space station through fiscal year 2020, with the option to purchase additional launches through 2024."
China

China Eager To Send Its Own Mission To Mars In the Wake of Mangalyaan 84

Posted by samzenpus
from the better-late-than-never dept.
MarkWhittington writes The recent arrival into Mars orbit of both NASA's MAVEN and India's Mangalyaan Mars Orbiter Mission has not escaped the notice of China. The achievement of its Asian rival has especially proven galling to the Chinese. China has yet to successfully send a space probe beyond the moon. The development has elicited calls in Beijing to accelerate China's Mars program. China currently plans to send a rover to Mars in 2020 and, perhaps, do a Mars sample return mission in 2030. However, it feels that India, which China regards as its rival in an Asian space race, has stolen the spotlight and has left the Chinese behind. China is now keen to try to play catchup with its own Mars mission. One of the hold ups for a Chinese interplanetary exploration program is the delays surrounding the development of the Long March 5 rocket, which will be roughly the equivalent of the America Delta IV in its capabilities. The Chinese launch vehicle unveiling has slipped to at least 2015 because of the technological challenges it faces. The Long March 5 is also needed to launch the 20 ton modules of the Chinese space station, currently planned for later this decade.
Mars

Indian Mars Mission Beams Back First Photographs 112

Posted by samzenpus
from the worth-a-thousand-words dept.
astroengine writes India's Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) got straight to work as it closed in on Martian orbit on Tuesday — it began taking photographs of the Red Planet and its atmosphere and surface as it slowed down to reach its ultimate destination. After a two day wait, those first images are slowly trickling onto the Internet.
Earth

Solar System's Water Is Older Than the Sun 173

Posted by timothy
from the waiter-has-this-water-been-well-aged? dept.
astroengine writes Next time you're swimming in the ocean, consider this: part of the water is older than the sun. So concludes a team of scientists who ran computer models comparing the ratios of hydrogen isotopes over time. Taking into account new insights that the solar nebula had less ionizing radiation than previously thought, the models show that at least some of the water found in the ocean, as well as in comets, meteorites and on the moon, predate the sun's birth.
Space

Why India's Mars Probe Was So Cheap 200

Posted by timothy
from the maybe-nasa-did-the-currency-conversion dept.
schwit1 (797399) writes "Alan Boyle has some interesting thoughts on why it cost India so little, less than the budget of the movie Gravity, to build and send its probe Mangalyaan to Mars: 'The $74 million Mars Orbiter Mission, also known by the acronym MOM or the Hindi word Mangalyaan ("Mars-Craft"), didn't just cost less than the $100 million Hollywood blockbuster starring Sandra Bullock. The price tag is a mere one-ninth of the cost of NASA's $671 million Maven mission, which also put its spacecraft into Mars orbit this week. The differential definitely hints at a new paradigm for space exploration — one that's taking hold not only in Bangalore, but around the world. At the same time, it hints at the dramatically different objectives for MOM and Maven, and the dramatically different environments in which those missions took shape.' Read it all. It gives us a hint at the future of space exploration.
Space

Water Discovered In Exoplanet Atmosphere 50

Posted by samzenpus
from the it's-getting-damp-in-here dept.
PattonPending sends news of the discovery of the smallest exoplanet yet to have water vapor in its atmosphere. Astronomers have detected water vapor in the atmosphere of a planet that orbits a star far beyond our solar system. Observations of the Neptune-sized planet, which lies 120 light years from Earth in the constellation of Cygnus, revealed that its atmosphere was mostly hydrogen with around 25% made up from water va-pour. Until now, researchers have been frustrated in their efforts to study the atmospheres of planets much smaller than Jupiter because their skies were thick with clouds. The problem was so persistent that astronomers had begun to think that all warm, small planets formed with substantial cloud cover. But writing in the journal Nature, scientists in the U.S. describe how they found a Neptune-sized planet with cloud-free skies, enabling them to make detailed measurements of a small planet's atmosphere for the first time.
Blackberry

BlackBerry Launches Square-Screened Passport Phone 189

Posted by Soulskill
from the hip-to-be-square dept.
New submitter Andrewkov writes: BlackBerry released its new Passport phone today. It has a square 4.5" screen and a physical keyboard, and it's aimed at corporate users. The company hopes the larger size, Siri-like voice recognition, 30-hour battery life, and improved security will buoy its market share. Early reviews are not terribly favorable — the Wall Street Journal says BlackBerry is still behind on the software, and "The bulky, awkward design and the unfamiliar keyboard make it hard to justify finding space for it in a pocket or bag." The Verge said, "[T]he Passport got in the way of getting work done more than it helped." Re/code calls it a phone only a BlackBerry user will love.
Math

Physicist Claims Black Holes Mathematically Don't Exist 356

Posted by Soulskill
from the plot-twist dept.
Koreantoast writes: Black holes, the stellar phenomena that continue to capture the imagination of scientists and science fiction authors, may not actually exist. According to a paper published by physics professor Laura Mersini-Houghton at the University of North Carolina and Mathematics Professor Harald Pfeiffer of the University of Toronto, as a collapsing star emits Hawking radiation, it also sheds mass at a rate that suggests it no longer has the density necessary to become a black hole — the singularity and event horizon never form. While the arXiv paper with the exact solution has not yet been peer reviewed, the preceding paper by Mersini-Houghton with the approximate solutions was published in Physics Letters B.

"I'm still not over the shock," said Mersini-Houghton. "We've been studying this problem for a more than 50 years and this solution gives us a lot to think about... Physicists have been trying to merge these two theories – Einstein's theory of gravity and quantum mechanics – for decades, but this scenario brings these two theories together, into harmony."
Moon

Russia Pledges To Go To the Moon 197

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-tanks-they-promise dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, has announced it intends to bring humans to the Moon by roughly 2030. Russia plans a full-scale exploration of the Moon's surface. Agency head Oleg Ostapenko said that by the end of the next decade, "based on the results of lunar surface exploration by unmanned space probes, we will designate [the] most promising places for lunar expeditions and lunar bases.

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