A while ago you had the chance to ask mathematician and theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson about his work in quantum electrodynamics, nuclear propulsion, and his thoughts on the past, present, and future of science. Below you'll find his answers to your questions.
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astroengine writes "Pulling from 20 years of research since the first discoveries of planets beyond our solar system, scientists have concluded that Earth and its sibling worlds comprise what appears to be a relatively rare breed in a diverse cosmic zoo that includes a huge variety of planet sizes, orbits and parent stars. The most common systems contain one or more planets one to three times bigger than Earth, all orbiting much closer to their parent stars than Earth circles the sun, says astronomer Andrew Howard, with the University of Hawaii."
SchrodingerZ writes "The nearest planet outside our solar system has recently been named Albertus Alauda. Originally named Alpha Centauri Bb, the planet is the closest known planet not orbiting the Sun, being a mere 4.3 light years away. The name comes from Jay Lark, who won the naming contest held by Uwingu starting last month and ending on April 22. Lark remarks that the name comes from the Latin name of his late grandfather, stating, "My grandfather passed away after a lengthy and valiant battle with cancer; his name in Latin means noble or bright and to praise or extol." The competition for naming the planet came from Uwing, a company which used the buying of name proposals and votes to fund grants for future space exploration ventures. Albertus Alauda won the competition with 751 votes, followed by Rakhat with 684 votes, and Caleo, with 622 votes."
hessian writes "New measurements suggest the Earth's inner core is far hotter than prior experiments suggested, putting it at 6,000C — as hot as the Sun's surface. The solid iron core is actually crystalline, surrounded by liquid. But the temperature at which that crystal can form had been a subject of long-running debate. Experiments outlined in Science used X-rays to probe tiny samples of iron at extraordinary pressures to examine how the iron crystals form and melt."
mikejuk writes "The founders of the original MySQL, the open-source database, are getting back together in a merger between Monty Program and SkySQL. SkySQL was created by around two dozen former MySQL executives and investors after Oracle bought MySQL from Sun. Widenius started Monty Program AB and created the MariaDB database from some of MySQL's open source code. The merger will provide a stronger rival to MySQL, so reassuring users who are worried about Oracle's future plans for the database."
An anonymous reader writes "Back in February 2010 NASA launched the Solar Dynamics Observatory–a 3-axis stabilized satellite and fully redundant spacecraft. The aim of the SDO is to monitor solar activity and see how that impacts space weather. As part of its observations, the SDO captures an image of the Sun every 12 seconds using the onboard Atmospheric Imaging Assembly, but varies those shots across 10 different wavelengths. NASA has now collected three years worth of image data from the SDO and has put together a video letting us see the Sun spin in all its glory." If you watch closely, you can see individual frames containing the Moon and Venus.
coondoggie writes "IBM today said its researchers are developing a solar power system that concentrates solar radiation 2,000 times by using a human-blood supply modeled way of cooling and converting 80% of Sun's heat into useful energy. IBM says the system can also desalinate water and cool air in sunny, remote locations where such systems are often in short supply."
astroengine writes "About 1,200 light-years from Earth, five planets are circling around sun-like star Kepler-62, two of which are fortuitously positioned for water, if any exists, to remain liquid on their surfaces — a condition believed to be necessary for life. The discovery, made by scientists using NASA's planet-hunting Kepler space telescope, is the strongest evidence yet for more than one Earth-sized planet existing in a star's so-called 'habitable' zone. 'We're particularly delighted to find that there are two planets in the habitable zone,' lead Kepler scientist William Borucki, with NASA's Ames Research Center in California, told Discovery News. 'It sort of doubles our chances of finding that Earth we'd all like to find. When you think about Earth and Mars, if Mars had been a bit larger, if Jupiter hadn't been so close, we'd again have two planets in the habitable zone and maybe we'd have a place to go,' he said." There's also a third planet believed to be a good candidate for hosting water.
New submitter AndyKrish links to the BBC's report that just two days after penning a "leave of presence" in which he says "I am not going away," Roger Ebert — "arguably the world's most famous film critic" — has died of cancer. Ebert was a long-time film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, as well as (most famously along with Gene Siskel) for a string of television shows. In the course of dealing with persistent cancer that affected his thyroid and jaw, and which took away his voice, Ebert became a prolific blogger on movies as well as other topics, and drew on cutting edge technology to regain the power of speech.
First time accepted submitter markboyer writes "The Solar Impulse just landed at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California to announce a journey that will take it from San Francisco to New York without using a single drop of fuel. The 'Across America' tour will kick off this May when founders Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg take off from San Francisco. From there the plane will visit four cities across the states before landing in New York."
angry tapir writes "When Oracle purchased Sun, many in the open source community were bleak about the future of MySQL. According to MySQL co-creator Michael "Monty" Widenius, these fears have been proven by Oracle's attitude to MySQL and its community. In the wake of the Sun takeover, Monty forked MySQL to create MariaDB, which has picked up momentum (being included by default in Fedora, Open SUSE and, most recently, Slackware). I recently interviewed Monty about what he learned from the MySQL experience and the current state of MariaDB."
First time accepted submitter bobthesungeek76036 writes "On March 26th, Larry Ellison and always with fashionable haircut John Fowler announced the new line of SPARC servers from Oracle. Touted as the fastest microprocessor in the world, they put up some impressive SPEC numbers against much more expensive (and older) IBM hardware. Is the industry still interested in SPARC or is it too late for Larry to regain the server market that Sun Microsystems had many moons ago?" El Reg has a pretty good overview of the new hardware; the T5 certainly looks interesting for highly threaded work loads (there's some massive SMT going on with 16 threads per core), but with Intel dominating for single-threaded performance and ARM-based servers becoming available squeezing them for massive multi-threading, is there really any hope in Oracle's efforts to stay in the hardware game?
iComp writes "A sophisticated scheme to use a casino's own security systems against it has netted scammers $33 million in a high-stakes poker game after they were able to gain a crucial advantage by seeing the opposition's cards. The team used a high-rolling accomplice from overseas who was known to spend large amounts while gambling at Australia's biggest casino, the Crown in Melbourne, according to the Herald Sun. He and his family checked into the Crown and were accommodated in one of its $30,000-a-night villas. The player then joined a private high-stakes poker game in a private suite. At the same time, an unnamed person got access to the casino's CCTV systems in the poker room and fed the information he gleaned back to the player via a wireless link. Over the course of eight hands the team fleeced the opposition to the tune of $33 million."
astroengine writes "Although there appears to be a mysterious dearth of exoplanets smaller than Earth, astronomers using data from NASA's Kepler space telescope have estimated that nearly a quarter of all sun-like stars in our galaxy play host to worlds 1-3 times the size of our planet. These astonishing results were discussed by Geoff Marcy, professor of astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, during a talk the W. M. Keck Observatory 20th Anniversary Science Meeting on Thursday. '23 percent of sun-like stars have a planet within (1-2.8 Earth radii) just within Mercury's orbit,' said Marcy. 'I'll say that again, because that number really surprised me: 23 percent of sun-like stars have a nearly-Earth-sized planet orbiting in tight orbits within 0.25 AU of the host stars.'"
An anonymous reader writes "After running uninterrupted for 3737 days, this humble Sun 280R server running Solaris 9 was shut down. At the time of making the video it was idle, the last service it had was removed sometime last year. A tribute video was made with some feelings about Sun, Solaris, the walk to the data center and freeing a machine from internet-slavery."
A while ago you had the chance to ask paleontologist Dr. Robert Bakker a wide variety of questions. Instead of answering them individually, Dr. Bob decided to write a lengthy piece that covers most of your inquiries, and includes personal stories and some of his philosophy. The first part is a narrative about his childhood conversion to fossil studies and how his paleo-CSI approach developed. We'll post the second half, covering his training in the history of theology and how it intersects with his science, tomorrow.
Trapezium Artist writes "The European Space Agency's far-infrared space observatory, Herschel, will soon run out of its liquid helium coolant, ending observations after more than three years of highly successful scientific operations. Predictions by ESA engineers are that Herschel will run out of helium later in March, at which point its instruments will warm up, rendering them effectively blind. Herschel was launched in 2009 along with ESA's Planck satellite to the Sun-Earth L2 point, roughly 1.5 million kilometers from Earth. At that location, the Sun and Earth remain along a more or less constant vector with respect to a spacecraft, meaning that it can cool to very low temperatures behind a sunshield. At such a large distance from Earth, however, there is no way of replenishing the coolant, and Herschel will be pushed off the L2 point to spend its retirement in a normal heliocentric orbit. With the largest monolithic mirror ever flown in space at 3.5 meters diameter and three powerful scientific instruments, Herschel has made exciting discoveries about the cool Universe, ranging from dusty starburst galaxies at high redshifts to star-forming regions spread throughout the Milky Way and proto-planetary disks of gas and dust swirling around nearby young stars. And with an archive full of data, much of it already public, Herschel is set to produce new results for years to come."
astroengine writes "The idea of slingshotting a manned spacecraft around Mars isn't a new one. In the 1960's, NASA carried out a feasibility study into an 800-day flyby mission to the Red Planet. And it would have been awesome. AT&T/Bellcomm mathematician A. A. VanderVeen was working for NASA in 1967 and came up with 5 possible launch opportunities between 1978 and 1986 — two windows in 1979 and 1983 provided the shortest transit time between the planets. But launch mass and fuel requirements were a constant issue. So VanderVeen turned to physics to find an elegant, and scientifically exciting, solution: add a Venus flyby to the Mars trip. Mars, Earth, and Venus align with the sun five times every 32 years, but Venus and Mars alignments happen more frequently making double (Earth-Venus-Mars-Earth) or even triple (Earth-Venus-Mars-Venus-Earth) flybys a viable mission. Unfortunately, the flyby never happened."
Kagetsuki writes "There's a project on KickStarter for a Free and Open set of emoji [the graphical emoticon glyph set which has a block reserved in Unicode]. Currently there are no full sets of Emoji that are completely free (as in beer and and freedom), so if this project gets funded it will be the first and only set of emoji that can, say, be distributed with FLOSS Linux/BSD/GNU systems. Not to mention anyone will be able to incorporate them into any project without any restrictive conditions." And lest you think emoji devoid of literary value, reader coondoggie points out that the Library of Congress has just welcomed (or at least allowed) onto its vaunted shelves an all-emoji version of Melville's Moby Dick, created with the help of translators working through Amazon's Mechanical Turk.
The Bad Astronomer writes "A team of astronomers has announced the discovery of the smallest exoplanet orbiting a Sun-like star yet found: Kepler-37b, which has a diameter of only 3865 kilometers — smaller than Mercury, and only a little bigger than our own Moon. It was found using the transit method; as it orbits its star, it periodically blocks a bit of the starlight, revealing its presence (abstract). Interestingly, the planet has been known for some time, but only new advances in asteroseismology (studying oscillations in the star itself) have allowed the star's size to be accurately found, which in turn yielded a far better determination of the planet's diminutive size. Also, the asteroseismology research was not funded by NASA, but instead crowd funded by a non-profit, which raised money by letting people adopt Kepler target stars."