25 January 2015

Is the Personal Robot Finally Here?

Is the Personal Robot Finally Here?She's a personal assistant, photographer, butler and home security guard all in one — and she's a robot.


24 January 2015

Why Your Next Fitness Tracker Will Be Smarter

The newest fitness trackers are going beyond just a simple accelerometer to carry a host of new sensors, from devices that measure the electrical properties of your skin to optical sensors that can measure your heartbeat. The new devices do provide an incremental improvement over the earlier ones, but the real breakthroughs are still a few years off, said Jason Heikenfeld, an electrical engineer and the director of the Novel Devices Laboratory at the University of Cincinnati. Most of the new devices still don't go beyond providing raw data for users to interpret, and are still far from making health predictions and prescriptions, said Dan Ledger, who researches wearables and health technologies at Endeavour Partners, a digital technology consulting company in Massachusetts. The new devices, however, are increasingly packed with much more sophisticated sensors.

24 January 2015

Google Maps Takes Landlubbers on a Visit to Old Ironsides

Google Maps Takes Landlubbers on a Visit to Old IronsidesNow, users can tour the USS Constitution using Google Maps' Street View. Google published the 360-degree virtual tour Tuesday (Jan. 20), using pictures taken in the fall of 2014. The ship, nicknamed Old Ironsides, launched in 1797 and was named by President George Washington himself. The USS Constitution became famous during the War of 1812, when it defeated the British ship HMS Guerriere.


24 January 2015

Football Physics: Why Deflated Balls Are Easier to Catch

After an inspection revealed that some of the footballs used during Sunday's NFL playoff game were slightly deflated, many people are asking whether the balls gave the New England Patriots an unfair advantage over the Indianapolis Colts. Last Sunday (Jan. 18), the Patriots landed a spot at the Super Bowl after beating the Colts 45 to 7. A ball that is less inflated is easier to deform and grip, said Miguel Morales, an associate professor of physics at the University of Washington. "Ideally, the way people are taught to catch it is to put their hands around the nose of the ball," Morales told Live Science.

23 January 2015

In a first, sea otter pup conceived in wild born in California lab

A baby sea otter has made history as the first pup born in captivity to a mother impregnated in the wild, and is healthy and developing normally, researchers in California said on Friday. The bundle of joy was born in November at the Long Marine Laboratory on the campus of the University of California at Santa Cruz, said Nicole Thometz, a researcher in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. To better the otter's chance of survival off the Central California shoreline, researchers are limiting their interaction with the pup, who was not named and whose sex is not known, she said.

23 January 2015

The upper hand: study points to early tool use by human ancestors

Belgian animal sculptor Emmanuel Janssens Casteels works on a replica of an Australopithecus in his workshop in PrayssasScientists said on Thursday an analysis of fossil hand bones of the species Australopithecus africanus that lived in southern Africa about 3 million to 2 million years ago indicated this human forerunner could use its hands in ways very much like modern people. "Forceful precision grips have been linked specifically to stone tool use and tool making, and so it is possible that Australopithecus africanus was using stone tools as well," said Tracy Kivell of Britain's University of Kent, who helped lead the study published in the journal Science with fellow University of Kent paleoanthropologist Matthew Skinner. This species appeared roughly a half million years before the first evidence of stone tools. The traditional view of scientists is that a species called Homo habilis that appeared about 2.4 million years ago was the pioneer in stone tool use in the human lineage.


23 January 2015

Mountain-Size Asteroid to Fly by Earth Monday: How NASA Will Watch

Mountain-Size Asteroid to Fly by Earth Monday: How NASA Will WatchA mountain-size asteroid will zoom past Earth Monday (Jan. 26), marking the closest pass by such a large space rock until 2027. Asteroid 2004 BL86, which is about 1,800 feet (550 meters) wide, will come within 745,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) of our planet Monday — about three times the distance between Earth and the moon. While this flyby poses no threat to Earth, it does present a rare opportunity to get a good look at a near-Earth asteroid, NASA officials say. The plan is to track the fast-moving asteroid using the 230-foot (70 m) dish-shaped Goldstone antenna at NASA's Deep Space Network in California, as well as the 1,000-foot (305 m) Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.


23 January 2015

NASA Finds Mysterious Bright Spot on Dwarf Planet Ceres: What Is It?

NASA Finds Mysterious Bright Spot on Dwarf Planet Ceres: What Is It?A strange, flickering white blotch found on the dwarf planet Ceres by a NASA spacecraft has scientists scratching their heads. The white spot on Ceres in a series of new photos taken on Jan. 13 by NASA's Dawn spacecraft, which is rapidly approaching the round dwarf planet in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. "Yes, we can confirm that it is something on Ceres that reflects more sunlight, but what that is remains a mystery," Marc Rayman, mission director and chief engineer for the Dawn mission, told Space.com in an email. "We do not know what the white spot is, but it's certainly intriguing," Rayman said.


23 January 2015

Art embraces science in new British play 'Oppenheimer'

Tom Morton-Smith, playwright of new play 'Oppenheimer' sits on a graphic of a 'bomb', at a rehearsal studio in London, Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014. The Royal Shakespeare Company is doing Tom Morton-Smith's play about the physicist Robert Oppenheimer, who led the team that developed the first nuclear weapon.. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)LONDON (AP) — Suddenly, science is sexy. With Benedict Cumberbatch nominated for multiple trophies as Alan Turing and Eddie Redmayne turning heads as Stephen Hawking, young British actors playing scientists are all the rage this awards season.


22 January 2015

Countdown to catastrophe: Doomsday Clock moved closer to midnight

(Reuters) - Rising threats from climate change and nuclear arsenals prompted the scientists who maintain the Doomsday Clock, a symbolic countdown to global catastrophe, to move it two minutes closer to midnight on Thursday, its first shift in three years. The Doomsday Clock, devised by the Chicago-based Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, now stands at three minutes to midnight, or doomsday. It has been set as close as two minutes to midnight, in 1953 when the United States tested a hydrogen bomb, and as far as 17 minutes from midnight, in 1991 as the Cold War expired. "Today, unchecked climate change and a nuclear arms race resulting from modernization of huge arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity," Bulletin Executive Director Kennette Benedict told a news conference.

22 January 2015

Rosetta spacecraft raises new questions about comet’s origin

Artist rendering of Rosetta, the European Space Agency's cometary probe with NASA contributionsBy Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - Scientists using Europe’s comet-orbiting Rosetta spacecraft have discovered that the complicated ancient body is coated with surprisingly simple organic molecules and surrounded by a changing cloud of gases, according to new research released on Thursday. In November it released a piggyback-riding spacecraft, which descended to the comet’s surface for a series of independent studies. The Rosetta mission is intended to shed light on the solar system’s early days by studying one of its pristine comet remnants.


22 January 2015

NASA's New Curiosity Rover Science Chief Takes Charge On Mars

NASA's New Curiosity Rover Science Chief Takes Charge On MarsAshwin Vasavada knows he has some pretty big shoes to fill. Vasavada is the newly appointed project scientist for NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, in charge of a team of nearly 500 researchers spread around the globe. He succeeds John Grotzinger, who steered Curiosity to some big finds over the past few years — including the discovery that Mars could have supported microbial life in the ancient past.


22 January 2015

The smoke around e-cig science

File photo of a customer puffing on an e-cigarette at the Henley Vaporium in New York CityBy Sara Ledwith LONDON (Reuters) - From Apple Pie to Bubbly Bubble Gum, Irish Car Bomb or Martian bar – from Mars!, the flavors of electronic cigarette offer something for every taste.


21 January 2015

Lake Tahoe's tiny creatures dying off at dramatic rate: scientist

Plowed snow forms a frame for Lake Tahoe near RenoThe smallest critters who occupy the bottom of the cold, clear waters of Lake Tahoe are dying off at an alarming rate and scientists are trying to find the cause to protect the fragile ecosystem of the lake high in the Sierra Nevada range. Scuba divers completed a first-ever circumnavigation of the shallow areas and certain deep spots last fall, collecting data that showed population drops in eight kinds of invertebrates that are only thumbnail-sized and smaller, including some only found in Lake Tahoe. "Our laboratory group was very surprised to see such a dramatic decline over a short period of time," University of Nevada, Reno scientist and associate professor Sudeep Chandra said in an email on Wednesday. Sitting at the base of a world-class ski area, Lake Tahoe is a tourist draw for its breathtaking beauty and outdoor activities, but has long faced environmental damage from development, boats and invasive species.


21 January 2015

Scientists create 'genetic firewall' for new forms of life

By Sharon Begley NEW YORK (Reuters) - A year after creating organisms that use a genetic code different from every other living thing, two teams of scientists have achieved another "synthetic biology" milestone: They created bacteria that cannot survive without a specific manmade chemical, potentially overcoming a major obstacle to wider use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The advance, reported on Wednesday in Nature, offers what one scientist calls a "genetic firewall" to achieve biocontainment, a means of insuring that GMOs cannot live outside a lab or other confined environment. Although the two labs accomplished this in bacteria, "there is no fundamental barrier" to applying the technique to plants and animals, Harvard Medical School biologist George Church, who led one of the studies, told reporters.

20 January 2015

Obama calls for major new personalised medicine initiative

President Barack Obama said in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday that his administration wants to launch a new push to use personalized genetic information to help treat diseases like cancer and diabetes. Obama urged Congress in his address to boost research funding to support new investments in "precision medicine." "I want the country that eliminated polio and mapped the human genome to lead a new era of medicine – one that delivers the right treatment at the right time," Obama said, noting the approach had helped reverse cystic fibrosis in some patients. "Tonight, I'm launching a new precision medicine initiative to bring us closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes – and to give all of us access to the personalized information we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier." The sequencing of individual genomes, read-outs of a person's complete genetic information, could speed scientific research and help drug companies and physicians tailor medicines to an individual's genetic profile.

20 January 2015

Obama calls for major new personalized medicine initiative

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on Capitol Hill in WashingtonPresident Barack Obama said in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday that his administration wants to launch a new push to use personalized genetic information to help treat diseases like cancer and diabetes. Obama urged Congress in his address to boost research funding to support new investments in "precision medicine." "I want the country that eliminated polio and mapped the human genome to lead a new era of medicine – one that delivers the right treatment at the right time," Obama said, noting the approach had helped reverse cystic fibrosis in some patients. "Tonight, I'm launching a new precision medicine initiative to bring us closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes – and to give all of us access to the personalized information we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier." The sequencing of individual genomes, read-outs of a person's complete genetic information, could speed scientific research and help drug companies and physicians tailor medicines to an individual's genetic profile.


20 January 2015

SpaceX raises $1 billion in funding from Google, Fidelity

An exterior of the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne(Reuters) - Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), founded by Elon Musk, said it has raised about $1 billion in a financing round with two new investors, Google Inc and Fidelity. Google and Fidelity will collectively own just under 10 percent of SpaceX, the company said in a statement on Tuesday. SpaceX said the funding will help it continue research in space transport, reusability, and satellite manufacturing. Google and Fidelity join existing investors Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Founders Fund, Valor Equity Partners and Capricorn.


20 January 2015

Milky Way 'Bones' Could Reveal Secrets About Our Galaxy

Milky Way 'Bones' Could Reveal Secrets About Our GalaxyScientists are finding more evidence of a galactic "skeleton" lurking inside the appendages of the Milky Way, and studying these massive "bones" could help researchers get a better idea of what our galaxy looks like from the outside. At the time, only one such "bone" — known as Nessie — had been identified. Now, new research presented at the 225th meeting of the American Astronomical Society shows that Nessie is not alone. Catherine Zucker, an undergraduate physics student at the University of Virginia, has dug up six strong candidates for additional galactic bones.


19 January 2015

Food diversity under siege from global warming, UN says

By Chris Arsenault ROME (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Climate change threatens the genetic diversity of the world's food supply, and saving crops and animals at risk will be crucial for preserving yields and adapting to wild weather patterns, a U.N. policy paper said on Monday. Certain wild crops - varieties not often cultivated by today's farmers - could prove more resilient to a warming planet than some popular crop breeds, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said. Ensuring food security and protecting at-risk species in the face of climate change is one of "the most daunting challenges facing humankind", the paper said. Between 16 and 22 percent of wild crop species may be in danger of extinction within the next 50 years, said the FAO paper.