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NASA Discovers 7th Closest Star 137

Thorfinn.au says "Scientists using data from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) have discovered the coldest class of star-like bodies, with temperatures as cool as the human body. Astronomers hunted these dark orbs, termed Y dwarfs, for more than a decade without success. When viewed with a visible-light telescope, they are nearly impossible to see. WISE's infrared vision allowed the telescope to finally spot the faint glow of six Y dwarfs relatively close to our sun, within a distance of about 40 light-years. 'WISE scanned the entire sky for these and other objects, and was able to spot their feeble light with its highly sensitive infrared vision,' said Jon Morse, Astrophysics Division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington. 'They are 5,000 times brighter at the longer infrared wavelengths WISE observed from space than those observable from the ground.'"

Humanoid Robot Wakes In Space, Tweets 91

DeviceGuru writes to note that "Robonaut 2 (aka R2), the first humanoid robot to become a permanent resident of the International Space Station (ISS), was awakened from stasis this week after six months in orbit. R2s first words? 'Those electrons feel GOOD!' The success of R2's activation on the ISS paves the way for putting R2 through its first movements in orbit on Sept. 1, when R2 will be sent commands for moving its arms and hands. Assuming these and other tests proceed without a hitch, R2 will start assisting the ISS crew with simple tasks in 2012. Coffee? Tea? Cigarettes?"

NASA Shoots Down Comet Elenin Doomsday Predictions 144

coondoggie writes "The comet Elenin, which will pass by Earth October 16, has generated such an inordinate amount of doomsday reports from a number of different sources that NASA today issued a release meant to address a variety of them. To address the myriad concerns, NASA said its scientists compiled a list of the most popular questions it has received about Elenin."

Yahoo, Facebook Test "Six Degrees of Separation" Screenshot-sm 228

An anonymous reader writes "Yahoo has partnered with Facebook to test the iconic social experiment known as 'six degrees of separation' (everyone is on average approximately six steps away from any other person on Earth). The goal of the Small World Experiment is to determine the social path length between two strangers by tapping into the world's largest social network and its 750 million users, each of whom have an average of 130 friends." Looks like a fun project, but not quite as useful as knowing how close you are to Kevin Bacon.
The Military

DARPA Set To Blast Falcon Mach 20 Test Flight 201

coondoggie writes "The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is taking to the sky again, this time to run what it says will be the second and final test of its hypersonic Falcon aircraft, which is capable of hitting speeds up to Mach 20, or about 13,000MPH. The Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 is scheduled to launch Wednesday between 7:00am — 1:00 pm PDT from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., aboard an Air Force Minotaur IV rocket. The rocket delivers the Falcon to a starting point high in the atmosphere, where its engine ignite, and, if all goes well, it will blast through the air for about a half hour, DARPA says."

Building Blocks of DNA Confirmed In Meteorites 145

MistrX writes "Researchers announced that the components of DNA have now been confirmed to exist in extraterrestrial meteorites. A different team of scientists also discovered a number of molecules linked with a vital ancient biological process, adding weight to the idea that the earliest forms of life on Earth may have been made up in part from materials delivered to Earth from space. Past research had revealed a range of building blocks of life in meteorites, such as the amino acids that make up proteins. Space rocks just like these may have been a vital source of the organic compounds that gave rise to life on Earth."

Use Your Car To Power Your House 271

itwbennett writes "Nissan has developed a system that allows a vehicle to supply electricity to power a house during a power outage or shortage. A prototype of the charging system running on a Nissan Leaf electric car was unveiled in Japan on Tuesday. A two-way charging device that would typically convert the household electricity supply to a voltage suitable for charging the car's battery can be reversed to feed power back into the household circuit."

800Mbps Wireless Network Made With LED Light Bulbs 175

Mark.JUK writes "German scientists working at Berlin's Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications have set a new world record for Visible Light Communication technology after they succeeded in using regular red, blue, green and white LED light bulbs as the basis for building a new 800Mbps capable ultrafast Wireless Local Area Network. Dr. Anagnostis Paraskevopoulos explained: 'With the aid of a special component, the modulator, we turn the LEDs off and on in very rapid succession and transfer the information as ones and zeros. The modulation of the light is imperceptible to the human eye. A simple photo diode on the laptop acts as a receiver. The diode catches the light, electronics decode the information and translate it into electrical impulses, meaning the language of the computer.' The solution, which could be installed on ceilings and would cover approximately 10 square meters, would be ideal for HD video streaming and inside Hospitals or Aircraft where traditional Wi-Fi is often banned. However visible light signals can easily be blocked, such as when a hand is passed in front of the transmitter."

Space Station To Be Deorbited After 2020 572

astroengine writes "Russia and its partners plan to plunge the International Space Station (ISS) into the ocean at the end of its life cycle after 2020 so as not to leave space junk, the space agency said on Wednesday. 'After it completes its existence, we will be forced to sink the ISS. It cannot be left in orbit, it's too complex, too heavy an object, it can leave behind lots of rubbish,' said deputy head of Roskosmos space agency Vitaly Davydov."

Do 'Ultracool' Brown Dwarfs Surround Us? 224

astroengine writes "The recent discovery of two very cool 'T-class' brown dwarfs in our cosmic neighborhood has prompted speculation that there may be many more ultracool 'failed stars' nearby (abstract). Not only are these objects themselves very interesting to study, should there be many such brown dwarfs spanning interstellar space. Perhaps they could be used as 'stepping stones' to the stars."

Last NASA Spacewalk Marks End of Era 80

An anonymous reader writes "Astronauts embarked on the final space walk of the U.S. shuttle era at the International Space Station, where Atlantis is docked on the final mission of the 30-year U.S. program. Atlantis carries a year's worth of supplies — more than 3,600 kilograms — for the International Space Station. It will also bring up a system that will be used by Canada's Dextre robot to test a system for refuelling and repairing spacecraft and satellites in space."

SpaceX Sues Valador For Defamation 111

An anonymous reader writes "Looks like aerospace consulting firm Valador tried to bite off more than it can chew. After already having bagged lucrative 'safety review' contracts with SpaceX' competitors, it tried to sell its services to SpaceX as well. However, according to SpaceX' claims in a recent court filing, Valador tried to juice up their sales pitch by first spreading rumors at key NASA offices that SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket is 'unsafe', and then generously offering its services to SpaceX to aid them with addressing any undeserved bias against them among NASA officials. In true California fashion (being the most litigious state of the nation), SpaceX is having none of that and is taking Valador to court for defamation, seeking damages identical to the value of the consulting contract Valador tried to sell to them." CT: It appears that the link in this story has disappeared. If you can find something better, post it.

Big Drop In Solar Activity Could Cool Earth 569

coondoggie writes "Scientists say the Sun, which roils with flares and electromagnetic energy every 11 years or so, could go into virtual hibernation after the current cycle of high activity, reducing temperatures on Earth. As the current sunspot cycle, Cycle 24, begins to ramp up toward maximum, scientists from the National Solar Observatory and the Air Force Research Laboratory independently found that the Sun's interior, visible surface, and corona indicate the next 11-year solar sunspot cycle, Cycle 25, will be greatly reduced or may not happen at all."

Two Elements Added To Periodic Table 138

smitty777 writes "Two new elements have been added to the periodic table of the elements. Elements 114 and 116 are the weightiest known, with atomic weights of 289 and 292 respectively. The discoverers are proposing flerovium and moscovium as names for these two new discoveries. There are also arguments being made to add in three more as well: 113, 115 and 118." We've noted element 114 in the past, but this is more official.

Why There's No Nobel Prize In Computing 229

alphadogg writes "When Nobel Prizes are dished out each fall, the most accomplished professionals in computing, telecom and IT have usually been left out in the cold. That's because there is no Nobel Prize for these fields, and it's unlikely there will be one any time soon. According to the Nobel Foundation: 'The Nobel Prizes, as designated in the Will of Alfred Nobel, are in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace. Only once has a prize been added — a Memorial Prize — The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, donated by Sweden's central bank to celebrate its tercentenary in 1968. The Nobel Foundation's Board of Directors later decided to keep the original five prizes intact and not to permit new additions.' So, if IBM, Google, Apple or some other deep-pocketed tech company wanted to make a big donation along the lines of what Sweden's central bank did in 1968, maybe it could sway the Nobel Foundation to add a prize. But it most likely wouldn't be officially called a Nobel Prize."

Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must be first overcome. -- Dr. Johnson