Apps help women bypass states' barriers to contraception

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In many states in America, legislatures have erected punitive, vindictive barriers for women seeking contraception, requiring them to get prescriptions for safe, widely taken medications. Read the rest

Science-inspired lamps: Large Hadron Collider and James Webb Space Telescope

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Designer Art Donovan writes, "I'm always looking for new and unique inspiration for my lighting commissions and the latest, cutting edge scientific devices offer a boatload of great design inspiration. From the cool, new 'James Webb Space Telescope' to the myriad of complex details in the L.H.P.C. at Cern- it's a cornucopia of rich imagery." Read the rest

White House issues report on President Obama's impact on science and tech

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In 2009, President Obama pledged to "restore science to its rightful place." He said, "We will not just meet, but we will exceed the level achieved at the height of the space race, through policies that invest in basic and applied research, create new incentives for private innovation, promote breakthroughs in energy and medicine, and improve education in math and science."

Today, the White House released an Impact Report listing 100 things that Obama has made happen with the support of many people across research, policy, education, and, yes, maker culture. Here's the full Impact Report. A few examples from the list:

• Prioritized and encouraged broad participation in STEM education. The President’s Educate to Innovate campaign, launched in November 2009, has resulted in more than $1 billion in private investment to improve K-12 STEM education. The Nation is on track to meet the President’s January 2011 State of the Union goal to put 100,000 additional excellent STEM teachers in America’s classrooms by 2021. The President has helped showcase to students—including through events such as the White House Science Fair—that science, math, engineering, and computer programming are deeply compelling subjects that can help solve problems locally and globally.

• Fostered a nation of makers. The President hosted the first-ever White House Maker Faire; highlighted the growing importance of additive manufacturing by being the first President to be 3D scanned for his Presidential bust; and led a call to action resulting in commitments to create more than 1,000 maker spaces around the country.

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Space botanists are beneficiaries of Canada's legal weed boom

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It's hard to fund space exploration research -- the commercial applications are speculative and far-off -- but there's never been a better time to study super-efficient, closed-loop botany of the sort that will someday accompany human interplanetary missions, thanks to the need to develop better grow-ops for the burgeoning legal weed market in Canada. Read the rest

World's largest telescope in jeopardy

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Puerto Rico's Arecibo Observatory is the world's largest radio telescope. Arecibo is an icon of science. It's where scientists proved the existence of neutron stars was proven, discovered the first binary pulsar, made the first direct image of an asteroid, made the first discovery of extrasolar planets, and of course transmitted the Arecibo Message, an attempt to communicate with extraterrestrial intelligence. And right now, the Arecibo Observatory is facing demolition due to budget cuts. Nadia Drake attended meetings this month in Puerto Rico to where scientists, staff, students, and the National Science Foundation discussed the telescope's fate and why it needs to be saved. From Natalie's wondrous "No Place Like Home" blog at National Geographic:

Science isn’t the only concern at Arecibo. In fact, the majority of people at the meetings discussed the role the observatory plays in inspiring and training Puerto Rican students, some 20,000 of whom visit the site every year.

Though it’s hard to quantify, the value of inspiration and education is not insignificant, especially considering how underrepresented Hispanic students are in the sciences.

As evidence, several students involved in the Arecibo Observatory Space Academy spoke about how important their time at the observatory was, and how this pre-college program gave them hands-on research experience that continues to affect their lives.

“I can say that AOSA has had a great impact on my life,” said Adriana Lopez, a 14-year-old space academy alum. “Always, in my life, I’ve been fascinated with space, and it has led me to join several camps, but none of them have affected me like AOSA.

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CO2 in Antarctica reaches 400 PPM for first time in 4 million years

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Earth's most remote continent finally caught up with its more populated counterparts. “Carbon dioxide has been steadily rising since the start of the Industrial Revolution, setting a new high year after year,” writes Brian Kahn at Climate Central. “There’s a notable new entry to the record books. The last station on Earth without a 400 parts per million (ppm) reading has reached it.”

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'Jupiter: Into the Unknown', a NASA Juno Mission Trailer

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“Get some popcorn. This July 4, we're going to Jupiter.”

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NASA’s Juno spacecraft will brave Jupiter’s fireworks this 4th of July for Science

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On July 4, NASA plans to fly a solar-powered spacecraft the size of a basketball court within 2,900 miles (4,667 kilometers) of Jupiter's cloud tops. It's part of the JUNO mission, and Boing Boing plans to cover the big event live from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory——so, watch this space, because we are fascinated by all things space.

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A quarter-century on, WHO drops claim that coffee is a carcinogen

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The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer reviewed 1,000+ papers investigating the link between coffee and cancer and concluded that the WHO's 1991 classification of coffee as a carcinogen was mistaken. Read the rest

Cryogenic freezing improves coffee extraction

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A new study in Nature by University of Bath chemist Christopher Hendon and colleagues from various universities and coffee shops finds that cryogenic freezing of coffee beans prior to grinding them produces a more uniform grind that allows for optimal extraction. Read the rest

A First: from space, NASA spots a single methane leak from Earth's atmosphere

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“For the first time, an instrument onboard an orbiting spacecraft has measured the methane emissions from a single, specific leaking facility on Earth's surface,” NASA announced Tuesday.

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Blow half of your mind with this explainer on brain hemispheres

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CGP Grey explains that it might be better to think of your brain as two intelligences, with the mute right hemisphere forced to play sidekick to its conjoined twin.

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University student scientists study: "Who’s the best-equipped superhero?"

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University of Leicester students spent 7 years using math and physics principles to answer "Who’s the best-equipped superhero?" They've published a series of papers on the subject in the university's "Journal of Physics Special Topics" and "Journal of Interdisciplinary Science Topics." The answer? Superman, followed by Wolverine, Mystique and Thor. From the University of Leicester:

Whilst Black Bolt, ruler of the ‘Inhumans’, may be the most destructive of the superheroes (capable of planetary annihilation), the student work suggests that, based on the range of superpowers at his disposal and the only limiting factor seemingly being the planet’s Sun, the ‘Last Son of Krypton’ Superman is likely to be the best equipped to win in an epic clash between all of the studied superheroes.

Boasting a super-powered array of skills, Superman, if obeying the ‘Law of Energy Conservation’, could exhibit a calculated stored solar energy output of 7.07x105 Joules per second for his ‘Super Flare’ attack. It is also shown that the ‘Man of Steel’, in theory, could have higher density muscle tissue than the average human which could aid in several of his superhuman abilities.

This incredible display of power makes Superman the number one candidate for ‘most powerful superhero’.

Honourable mentions go out to X-Men duo Wolverine and Mystique who were close contenders for the title of world’s finest in the student papers with their multitude of mutant abilities – including increased regenerative capacity and, in the case of Mystique, a mastery of gene manipulation to aid in disguise.

The superhero Thor, based off of the Norse god of the same name, would also be one of the most formidable superheroes, having high energy efficiency and explosive powers.

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The closest I'll get to Jupiter is this JPL clean room

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Hey Jupiter, I hope you're ready for your close-up.

Recently, I was granted the rare privilege of stepping inside one of the largest cleanrooms at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratories. I was there to learn about this year's blockbuster space mission, Juno, and chat with some super smart science and engineering people who worked on the project.

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In updated Periodic Table, some new elements may be named for Japan, Moscow, Tennessee

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The periodic table of elements will soon be updated with four new names, including three that honor Moscow, Japan, and Tennessee. A total of four new names were recommended Wednesday by an international scientific group, and the fourth is named for a Russian scientist.

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Color illustrations of 16th C eye-diseases, including those caused by witchcraft

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16th century barber-surgeon Georg Bartisch began his barber-surgeon apprenticeship in 1548 in Saxony, and three years later, became an itinerant barber-surgeon in Saxony, Silesia, and Bohemia. Read the rest

Shocking video of an electric eel leaping from its tank

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This intense slow-motion video, depicting an electric eel jumping from a tank to zap a faux alligator head, accompanies a new scientific paper by Vanderbilt University biologist Kenneth Catania. From Nature:

Catania first spotted the behaviour during earlier laboratory experiments with electric eels (Electrophorus electricus), when they would leap upwards to attack a metal-rimmed net as he was trying to fish them out of their tanks. He analysed it by presenting the eels with carbon rods and aluminium plates at which they struck; the video’s plastic alligator, with its flashing light-emitting diodes that are powered by the eel’s electrocution, is his dramatic demonstration of the effect...

The behaviour allows eels to directly shock their opponents, rather than having their voltage dissipated by water.

It is the first time that this has been recorded in a research paper, Catania says — although he argues that his discovery supports a widely disbelieved observation made more than 200 years ago by the Prussian explorer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt. In a paper published in 1807, von Humboldt recounted that he had seen South American native fishermen herding horses into a pool of electric eels; the eels would discharge themselves against the horses and could be fished safely when they were exhausted.

According to Catania, there are other mysteries of the electric eels left to be solved, like how it can electrocute another creature without zapping itself in the process.

"Leaping eels electrify threats, supporting Humboldt’s account of a battle with horses" (PNAS)

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