21 Oct 2019

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Buzz Aldrin shares latest moonshot vision: No to NASA’s Gateway, but yes to China

Buzz Aldrin shares latest moonshot vision: No to NASA’s Gateway, but yes to ChinaWASHINGTON, D.C. - Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin says there's no need for the lunar-orbiting Gateway outpost that plays a key role in NASA's vision to land astronauts on the moon by 2024. Instead, he envisions a differently configured transportation system that makes use of commercial rockets under the leadership of a "Space Exploration Alliance" that includes China as well as NASA's current partners. "I'm not a big fan of the Gateway," Aldrin said today during a panel discussion presented by the International Academy of Astronautics in conjunction with this week's International Astronautical Congress in Washington. "I do not believe… Read More


21 Oct 2019 2:53am GMT

20 Oct 2019

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Scientists create ‘artificial skin’ that could make smartphones ticklish

Scientists create ‘artificial skin’ that could make smartphones ticklishScientists have developed an "artificial skin" that they say can wrap around devices such as smartphones and make them ticklish.The prototype, which has been designed to look like and mimic human skin, responds to different forms of human contact such as tickling, caressing and pinching.


20 Oct 2019 10:47am GMT

19 Oct 2019

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Archaeologists discovered 30 ancient sarcophagi in Egypt with perfectly preserved mummies inside. Photos show the biggest coffin find in a century.

Archaeologists discovered 30 ancient sarcophagi in Egypt with perfectly preserved mummies inside. Photos show the biggest coffin find in a century.The biggest coffin discovery in a century features well-preserved colors and inscriptions, enclosing perfect 3,000-year-old mummies.


19 Oct 2019 11:22pm GMT

Why giant squid, the once mythical kraken of the deep, are still mystifying scientists 150 years after they were discovered

Why giant squid, the once mythical kraken of the deep, are still mystifying scientists 150 years after they were discoveredGiant squid have been recorded in US waters for the first time in history. These photos show why they are still so mysterious.


19 Oct 2019 7:26pm GMT

Egypt unveils trove of ancient coffins excavated in Luxor

Egypt unveils trove of ancient coffins excavated in LuxorEgypt revealed Saturday a rare trove of 30 ancient wooden coffins that have been well-preserved over millennia in the archaeologically rich Valley of the Kings in Luxor. The antiquities ministry officially unveiled the discovery made at Asasif, a necropolis on the west bank of the Nile River, at a press conference against the backdrop of the Hatshepsut Temple. "This is the first discovery in Asasif by dedicated Egyptian hands, comprised of archaeologists, conservationists and workers," the head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mostafa al-Waziri, told reporters.


19 Oct 2019 2:09pm GMT

18 Oct 2019

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Archaeologists have located an ancient city hidden in the Cambodian jungle. The discovery was 150 years in the making.

Archaeologists have located an ancient city hidden in the Cambodian jungle. The discovery was 150 years in the making.For centuries, the ancient city of Mahendraparvata has been covered by dense trees that make it hard to observe.


18 Oct 2019 3:45pm GMT

17 Oct 2019

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Officials have confirmed 33 deaths and nearly 1,500 cases of serious lung disease tied to vaping. Here are all the health risks you should know about.

Officials have confirmed 33 deaths and nearly 1,500 cases of serious lung disease tied to vaping. Here are all the health risks you should know about.Investigators don't know the cause and haven't identified a single common brand or drug across all of the cases. Here's what you need to know.


17 Oct 2019 8:56pm GMT

SpaceX may want to launch 42,000 internet satellites — about 5 times more spacecraft than humanity has ever flown

SpaceX may want to launch 42,000 internet satellites — about 5 times more spacecraft than humanity has ever flownElon Musk wants to cover Earth in high-speed Starlink web access. But crushing SpaceX's competition may require tens of thousands more satellites.


17 Oct 2019 7:58pm GMT

16 Oct 2019

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NASA's Hubble space telescope just took incredible photos of a visiting comet from another star system

NASA's Hubble space telescope just took incredible photos of a visiting comet from another star systemNASA also released a time-lapse video of the comet, 2I/Borisov, hurtling past the sun. The images show a halo of dust surrounding the alien object.


16 Oct 2019 5:21pm GMT

Virgin Galactic and Under Armour reveal spacewear clothing line for suborbital trips

Virgin Galactic and Under Armour reveal spacewear clothing line for suborbital tripsIt's a bit of a stretch to call them spacesuits, but the "spacewear" clothing line unveiled today by Virgin Galactic and Under Armour looks comfortable enough to wear even if you're not rocketing to the edge of space. The Under Armour clothing line - which includes a base layer, a spacesuit that's really a beefed-up flight suit, and zippered flight boots - made its debut at a New York runway show, and will get its space premiere during test flights for Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo rocket plane. Next year, Virgin Galactic's customers are due to wear the custom-made space duds when… Read More


16 Oct 2019 4:06pm GMT

NASA unveils spacesuits for moon missions, featuring red, white and blue

NASA unveils spacesuits for moon missions, featuring red, white and blueThe fashion statement for NASA's future moonwalkers goes beyond basic white to add some flag-worthy touches of red and blue. But the color scheme for the "pumpkin suits" that astronauts wear during launches and landings is relatively unchanged, due to practical considerations. It turns out that the old orange, with a few blue accents added, is the new orange. Both suit designs had their debut today at NASA Headquarters as part of the buildup to the Artemis moon program, which is due to put the first woman and the next man on the lunar surface by as early as 2024.… Read More


16 Oct 2019 2:26am GMT

15 Oct 2019

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A new radar system will track 250,000 tiny pieces of space junk. It may help prevent snowballing collisions that could cut off our access to orbit.

A new radar system will track 250,000 tiny pieces of space junk. It may help prevent snowballing collisions that could cut off our access to orbit.Tracking tiny bits of debris in space could help us avoid a potential disaster known as a Kessler event.


15 Oct 2019 8:30pm GMT

The Amelia Earhart Mystery Stays Down in the Deep

The Amelia Earhart Mystery Stays Down in the DeepFor two weeks in August, a multimillion-dollar search from air, land and sea sought to solve the 80-year mystery of Amelia Earhart's disappearance.Robert Ballard, the ocean explorer famous for locating the wreck of the Titanic, led a team that discovered two hats in the depths. It found debris from an old shipwreck. It even spotted a soda can. What it did not find was a single piece of the Lockheed Electra airplane flown in 1937 by Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan, which vanished during their doomed voyage around the world.Ballard and his crew don't consider it a failure. For one thing, he says, they know where the plane isn't. And in the process, they may have dispensed with one clue that has driven years of speculation, while a team of collaborating archaeologists potentially turned up more hints at the aviator's fate."This plane exists," Ballard said. "It's not the Loch Ness monster, and it's going to be found."Ballard had avoided the Earhart mystery for decades, dismissing the search area as too large, until he was presented with a clue he found irresistible. Kurt Campbell, then a senior official in President Barack Obama's State Department, shared with him what is known as the Bevington image -- a photo taken by a British officer in 1940 at what is now known as Nikumaroro, an atoll in the Phoenix Islands in the Republic of Kiribati. American intelligence analysts had enhanced the image at Campbell's request and concluded a blurry object in it was consistent with landing gear from Earhart's plane.Motivated by this clue, and by 30 years of research on Nikumaroro by the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, Ballard and his crew set a course for the island in August. They were joined by archaeologists from the National Geographic Society, which sponsored and documented the journey for "Expedition Amelia," which will air on the National Geographic Channel on Sunday.Ballard and Allison Fundis, the Nautilus' chief operating officer, coordinated an elaborate plan of attack. First, they sent the ship five times around the island to map it with multibeam sonar and deployed a floating autonomous surface vehicle to map shallower areas off the island's shore. They also used four aerial drones for additional inspections of the surrounding reef.Nikumaroro and its reef are just the tip of a 16,000-foot underwater mountain, a series of 13 sheer escarpments that drop off onto ramps, eventually fanning out at the base for 6 nautical miles.If Earhart crashed there, they believe, rising tides would have dragged her plane over the reef and down the escarpments. Fragments should have collected on the ramps, especially heavier components like the engine and the radio.In deeper water the team deployed the Hercules and the Argus, remotely operated vehicles equipped with spotlights and high-definition cameras. These robots descended 650 feet around the entire island and found nothing.At that point, the crew focused on the northwest corner of the island near the S.S. Norwich City, a British freighter that ran aground on the island in 1929, eight years before Earhart's disappearance. That is the area where the Bevington photo was taken.While they searched there, crew members found so many beach rocks consistent in size and shape with the supposed landing gear in the Bevington image that it became a joke on the ship."Oh look," Ballard would chuckle, "another landing gear rock."Fundis said, "We felt like if her plane was there, we would have found it pretty early in the expedition." But she said they kept up their morale because Ballard reminded them that it took four missions to find the Titanic and that one of those expeditions missed the ship by just under 500 feet.The crew mapped the mountain's underwater drainage patterns and searched the gullies that might have carried plane fragments down slope, to a depth of 8,500 feet. Crew members even searched roughly 4 nautical miles out to sea in case the plane lifted off the reef intact and glided underwater as it sank.Each time a new search tactic yielded nothing, Ballard said, he felt he was adding "nail after nail after nail" to the coffin of the Nikumaroro hypothesis.Still, Ballard and Fundis confess that other clues pointing to Nikumaroro have left them with lingering curiosity about whether Earhart crashed there. For instance, Panamerican Airway radio direction finders on Wake Island; Midway Atoll; and Honolulu, Hawaii; each picked up distress signals from Earhart and took bearings, which triangulated in the cluster of islands that includes Nikumaroro.For years, many Earhart historians have been skeptical of the Nikumaroro theory. And Ballard, Fundis and their team's return to the island will now depend on whether the archaeologists from the National Geographic Society came up with evidence that Earhart's body was there.Fredrik Hiebert, the society's archaeologist in residence, has some leads. His team awaits DNA analysis on soil samples taken at a bivouac shelter found on the island.The camp, known as the Seven Site for its shape, was first noticed by a British officer in 1940. Thirteen bones were gathered then and sent to a colonial doctor in Fiji, who determined they belonged to a European man. The bones were subsequently lost.Decades later, the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, or TIGHAR, tracked down the doctor's analysis. Richard Jantz, director emeritus of the Forensic Anthropology Center at the University of Tennessee, determined that the bones most likely belonged to a woman and that Earhart's build was "more similar to the Nikumaroro bones than 99% of individuals in a large reference sample."Since the 1980s, Tighar has conducted 12 expeditions to Nikumaroro in an effort to find more skeletal remains. It turned up other items from a castaway's existence at the camp but never any bones or DNA.Hiebert's team is hoping to use new techniques to identify evidence of mitochondrial DNA with similarities to Earhart's living relatives in the 22 soil samples they collected.Before the expedition, Hiebert and Erin Kimmerle, a forensic anthropologist, visited the National Museum in Tarawa, Kiribati's capital. On an unmarked shelf, Kimmerle spotted remnants of a female skull. The team now awaits DNA analysis of the specimen.In 2021, the Nautilus will be in the South Pacific fulfilling a contract to map underwater U.S. territories. That will bring the ship to the area around Howland Island, Earhart's intended destination for refueling before her plane disappeared. Ballard and Fundis plan to make time to explore the alternate theory favored by some skeptics of the Nikumaroro hypothesis: that Earhart crashed at sea closer to Howland.Fundis considers Earhart a role model, which gives her the "fuel to keep going," she said.And Ballard explained his own motivation to continue the search."In many ways, I'm doing this for my mother," he said, describing her as a "brilliant woman" who grew up in Kansas, like Earhart, but dropped out of college to raise three children and care for her sister.His mother, Hariett Ballard, admired Earhart and hoped she might pave the way for her children, or perhaps grandchildren, to pursue adventurous careers. Robert Ballard's daughter, Emily Ballard, was among the crew of the Nautilus, hunting for Earhart's plane."I'm not giving up," he said.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company


15 Oct 2019 12:22pm GMT

14 Oct 2019

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Allen Institute kicks brain wave recording into overdrive with Neuropixels probe

Allen Institute kicks brain wave recording into overdrive with Neuropixels probeSeattle's Allen Institute for Brain Science is sharing 70 trillion bytes' worth of data documenting electrical activity in mouse brains, collected by a new type of silicon probe that can monitor hundreds of neurons simultaneously. The Neuropixels system, developed by an international collaboration that includes the Allen Institute, could be adapted to record brain activity in human patients as well, said Josh Siegle, a senior scientist at the institute who works with the probes. "The application I'm most interested in is decoding the communication patterns of the brain, and really understanding how information is transmitted between regions," Siegle told GeekWire.… Read More


14 Oct 2019 3:00pm GMT

Climate change researchers recommend banning all frequent flyer reward programs to cut carbon emissions by targeting jet-setters

Climate change researchers recommend banning all frequent flyer reward programs to cut carbon emissions by targeting jet-settersA report commissioned by the Committee on Climate Change says that just 15% of the entire British population take 70% of all flights from the country.


14 Oct 2019 11:20am GMT

12 Oct 2019

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Who Would Firebomb a Homeless Encampment?

Who Would Firebomb a Homeless Encampment?LOS ANGELES -- The incendiary device came shooting toward the homeless encampment without words or warning. Arthur Garza, 29, heard a pop against his tent, then saw the object, which he described as a "mortar" or "firecracker," bounce into the street and explode."It was like shooting stars everywhere," Garza said.In a matter of minutes, flames were climbing the incline of dirt and brush under the interchange of the 2 and 134 freeways in Eagle Rock, Los Angeles. Stray embers jumped eight lanes of highway to ignite land in the adjoining city of Glendale.Garza and others in the encampment acted quickly, setting their water supply on the flames and raking brush to halt the fire's spread. They were aware and worried, Garza said, that the homeless might be blamed. Ultimately, some 300 firefighters and multiple water-dropping helicopters were deployed to hold back the blaze. A hundred homes were evacuated, though no structures were lost. Forty-five acres burned.Encampments like Garza's have become firm fixtures of LA's landscape as the homelessness crisis gets steadily worse. Now, with fire season underway, city officials are growing anxious about the uptick in blazes that start in makeshift communities. The city is technically barred from removing homeless people from public areas. But last month, the LA City Council passed a safety measure that allows for the arrest of homeless people who refuse to leave high-risk fire zones.The case of Eagle Rock, however, shows that the threat can also come from outside the camps.A Shocking ArrestSix days after the attack on Aug. 25, Daniel Michael Nogueira and Bryan Antonio Araujo-Cabrera, both 25 and of Los Angeles, were arrested on suspicion of sparking the fire. Nogueira was booked on a felony count, while Araujo-Cabrera was booked on a misdemeanor.It was a shock to the middle-class community of Eagle Rock. Nogueira is the son of Michael Nogueira, the president of the Eagle Rock Chamber of Commerce and a big booster of the local farmers' market and Concerts in the Park series. The elder Nogueira is known around town as "Sir Michael," the name of his party-rental business, and his family home, surrounded by a white-picket fence, has been well known for its elaborate decorations each Halloween and for hosting rollicking gatherings on boxing match nights.Announcing the arrests in a sternly worded release, the Los Angeles Fire Department said investigators used "burn patterns, witness statements and surveillance videos" to identify its suspects. The department "determined the fire was an intentional act" and said the homeless were the targets. No motive was mentioned.The job of the LAFD's arson investigators is even more challenging in a climate-changing California: the threat of devastating fires has essentially gone year-round. The unit was founded as the Arson Squad in 1918, and a century later, is known as the Arson/Counter-Terrorism Section, an evolution that officials said has become necessary to confronting threats in a world beset with climate change and terrorism. In the fall and early winter, the danger becomes more potent. The dry Santa Ana winds scream across the basins, and the sun seems to burn meaner, capable of igniting dried-out growth at the slightest provocation.In this case, firefighters stayed at the burn zone for two days to make sure it was completely extinguished. "We remember the Oakland Hills fire, which killed 25 people," said Brian Humphrey, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Fire Department, referring to the 1991 Bay Area firestorm that started after embers from a fire put down a day before reignited in heavy winds.The day after his arrest, the younger Nogueira posted $1 million bail. Araujo-Cabrera was released on Sept. 14. The Los Angeles District Attorney's Office has not formally charged either with any crimes. A spokesman for that office said the DA is requesting further evidence. The Nogueira family declined to comment.One of the arson investigators, LAFD Capt. Tim Halloran, said he could not discuss details about the incident, citing the ongoing inquiry, but made it clear that the department will keep pursuing charges."Obviously it's our desire to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice," Halloran said.A Citywide CrisisThere have been several notable homeless-related fires over the past few years. In December 2017, a cooking fire at a homeless encampment in a ravine off the 405 sparked the Skirball Fire, burning 422 acres and six Bel Air homes.This summer, homeless-encampment-related fires also sprung up in Pacoima, where an abandoned house taken over by squatters burned for a second time; in South Los Angeles, where an encampment in an alley burned, badly damaging a house; and in the Sepulveda Basin, where about 100 people were living, some for many years.The uptick, generally, is undeniable. Humphrey, of the LAFD, said, "In the number of fires related to homeless encampments, in which the homeless are present -- whether they are the cause is not certain -- the answer is yes, we are seeing an increasing trend."But in three fires in September alone, all of which left unhoused people dead or seriously injured -- in Van Nuys, Glendale, and in South LA -- arson is suspected. In late August, an unhoused musician in downtown LA's Skid Row was targeted in an arson attack and died days later. And the Los Angeles Police Department is currently investigating a case, in Echo Park, in which an explosive device was thrown at a homeless encampment on Oct. 6.The Rev. Andy Bales, one of the most respected homeless advocates in Skid Row, and chief of the Union Rescue Mission, said the rise in attacks on homeless Angelenos is inexcusable, but sees it as a raw reflection of the dissatisfaction with official efforts to alleviate the crisis. Every night, despite billions of taxpayer dollars poured onto the problem, nearly 59,000 people sleep on the streets of Los Angeles County. The countywide homeless count rose 12% over the past year."Unfortunately, some folks that have twisted thinking are getting so angry about the situation," Bales said. "This has become absolutely a growing concern, fanatical vigilantism."Bales said he supervises a Facebook page related to homelessness concerns, "and more and more people are calling for others to arm themselves, saying things like, 'Round them all up like cattle, and ship them either to Mexico or the desert.'""I can't tell you how many posts I have to delete," he said.Makeshift habitations are everywhere -- set up under or near freeways, in ravines or canyons and creek beds, and on public land away from view. Eventually, some encampments are pushed onto the sidewalks, where a cat-and-mouse ritual ensues with sanitation workers.One of the persistent myths about the homeless is that they are largely from out of town, a sort of foreign invasion. Yet, the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count finds that roughly two-thirds of unsheltered adults have lived in LA County 10 years or more.And the difference between those on the street and those in permanent dwellings can be a matter of degrees. For example, as it happens, the younger Nogueira was arrested for attacking an encampment that houses a former neighbor. Arthur Garza's last home address was three houses down from the place where the Nogueiras live now, on Eagle Rock's tony Hill Drive.Back Under the FreewayGarza is back in the place he currently calls home, under beams holding up sheets of vinyl tarp, strung up along tents and umbrellas. The freeway traffic overhead creates an unending droning noise.Living on the streets, homeless people in LA often fall victim to sexual assault, mental illness or drug addiction. Garza has faced multiple arrests since becoming homeless, county jail records show. Some were related to narcotics, he said. "I basically never had any police contact until I started living on the street."He was kicked out of his last formal address by relatives in 2014, he said, in what he described as a dispute over an inheritance. (Repeated attempts to contact Garza's relatives at his old Hill Drive address were unsuccessful.) He has been living on the streets ever since.These days, Garza works part-time for a small upholstery tools manufacturer, just a few doors away from where he sleeps. Jerry Preusser, the shop owner, spoke effusively about his employee's work ethic, and he said that he's tried to offer Garza a room in his home."I've helped him a lot and he's done a lot to change," Preusser said. But habits, he added, are hard to break, and the cycle of homelessness itself becomes an anchor: "You don't imagine your life out of that."Although they once lived on the same block, Garza said he and Nogueira didn't know each other growing up. But he's long been aware of the Nogueira family. When he heard that Daniel Nogueira was arrested, Garza recalled saying, "That's Sir Michael's son."Garza said his conditions overall have not changed. Drivers routinely throw trash at him or honk aggressively. LA sanitation sweepers come by, threatening to haul off his property if he doesn't move it. Garza carts his stuff to other locations, and then back. He zips around Eagle Rock on an electric longboard, and keeps two guinea pigs as pets."I'm not complaining about being homeless," Garza said. "The winters are cold, the summers are hot, constant noise. That's why we were back up there, because it's quieter," he said, pointing to a cluster of trees and bushes set against the side of the freeway.Now a fence blocks his path. "Right here," he said, "everything echoes."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company


12 Oct 2019 2:22pm GMT