Pesco speaking at big free conference about space in San Francisco next week

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BB pal Ariel "Spacehack" Waldman has curated a stellar program for the big DENT: SPACE conference next week (9/21-9/22) in San Francisco! I'm honored to be on the schedule with such amazing people as SETI Institute's Seth Shostak, science writer Mary Roach, The Planetary Society's Emily Lakdawalla, Ars Technica's Annalee Newitz, UC Berkeley planet hunter Alex Filippenko, and so many more fascinating folks! I'll be joining Ariel on stage Thursday at 2:50pm to talk about space history and the intersection of science and art to instill a sense of wonder about the universe, and a far out new project that I'll announce soon. See below on how to get a free ticket! Ariel writes:

On September 21-22, 2016, Dent:Space takes place at the Innovation Hangar at the Palace of Fine Arts (formerly the Exploratorium museum) with two stages of fascinating speakers spanning the technological, artistic, commercial, scientific, educational, and DIY aspects of space exploration. We’re also putting together an exhibit hall for the conference — kind of a World’s Fair-like set of interactive demos that illustrate the future of space exploration and its many possibilities. We were able to give away 3,000 free tickets to the talks and exhibits, but we’ve run out of room for that. In the interest of keeping it all accessible for as many as possible, tickets are still only $49. But, as a (Boing Boing reader), you can still grab a free ticket here

Dent:Space is a celebration of humans breaking the status quo of who can be involved and what can be achieved in space exploration.

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NASA Begins Study of Australia's Great Barrier Reef

Bleached and stressed coral on the Great Barrier Reef [NASA/JPL]

“A NASA airborne mission designed to transform our understanding of Earth's valuable and ecologically sensitive coral reefs has set up shop in Australia for a two-month investigation of the Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest reef ecosystem,” reports NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory today.

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The DEA just added a promising anti-opioid addiction herb to Schedule 1, because reasons

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Kratom is a herb that has been in widespread use in Southeast Asia for centuries; it is chewed for to increase stamina, induce gentle euphoria and relaxation, and it has also been used with unheard-of success to help people kick their addictions to opioid painkillers. Read the rest

XKCD's massive, vertical climate change infographic

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Randall Munroe once again shows that he's one of the web's most talented storytellers, inventing ways of conveying information that use the web's affordances to novel and sharp effect (there's a reason he won a Hugo award). Read the rest

Autocratic regimes systematically deny internet access to opposition ethnic groups

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In Digital discrimination: Political bias in Internet service provision across ethnic groups (Sci-hub mirror), a new paper in Science, political scientists from the University of Konstanz and elsewhere document the practice of "ethnic favoritism" in internet provision, through which autocratic regimes use telcoms policies to discriminate against opposition groups. Read the rest

Lost space probe finally found on comet

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In 2014, the Philae space probe left the Rosetta spacecraft and descended to the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Unfortunately, Philae missed its landing due to an anchor mishap, bounced around, and then vanished. On Sunday, just a few weeks before Rosetta's expected crash into the comet and the end of the mission, Cecilia Tubiana of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research was scouring new images of the comet transmitted from Rosetta and noticed the dishwasher-sized probe in a crack. From Nadia Drake's post at National Geographic:

“I immediately recognized Philae, there was no doubt about it,” says Tubiana, who’s at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research. “I could not believe that we had finally — one month before the end of the Rosetta mission — successfully imaged it! I was so happy!”

Now, with Philae found, scientists can finally rest. The lander won’t be doing any more science, but knowing where it came to rest on 67P will help the team interpret the data Philae could collect during those few short days when it was operational in November 2014. And anyway, soon enough, its comet will carry it—and Rosetta—away from the sun and into a long, dark night.

"Long-Lost Comet Lander Finally Found" (Nat Geo) Read the rest

The universe has no "up"

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New research from University College London suggests that the universe is indeed "isotropic," the same in all directions. Cosmologists Daniela Saadeh and Andrew Pontzen analyzed cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation left over from the Big Bang for any patterns that would indicate "a special direction in space." Read the rest

Explore other star systems' habitable zones -- and our own billions of years hence

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The Circumstellar Habitable Zone Simulator provides detailed views of six star systems known to have exoplanets. You can change the stars' mass and the planetary distances and fool around with Goldilocks' breakfast, but it's the timeline control that's scary: drag it right to fly through the billions of years, watching the habitable zone head out of town as the star goes nova then contract to nothing. Read the rest

Clean old records with wood glue

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Ghettofunk13 demonstrates the old vinyl-lover's trick of deep-cleaning your wax pancakes by spreading the grooves with Titebond II wood glue, waiting for it to dry, and then peeling off the glue-skin and taking all the gunk with it (presumably there is some way of actually playing the music from the intact glue-skin, given sufficiently advanced apparatus). Read the rest

Bill Nye: What if all the ice melted on Earth?

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It would not be cool. At all. (AsapSCIENCE)

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Recreating Our Galaxy in a Supercomputer

Simulated view of our Milky Way galaxy, seen from a nearly face-on angle. This image was created by simulating the formation of our galaxy using a supercomputer, which, in this case, consisted of 2,000 computers linked together.(Hopkins Research Group/Caltech)

Astronomers at Caltech have created the most detailed computer simulation yet of how our Milky Way galaxy was formed, from inception billions of years ago as a loose collection of matter to its modern state as a massive, spiral disk of stars.

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Images from Saturn Cassini probe reveal Titan's dunes and frigid landscape in new detail

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“Frigid alien landscapes” are coming to light in new radar images of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, captured from NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

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Brain's "reward system" also tied to sleep-wake states

According to Stanford University researchers, a primary circuit in the brain's reward involving the chemical "feel-good" chemical dopamine, is also essential for controlling our sleep-wake cycles.

“Insomnia, a multibillion-dollar market for pharmaceutical companies, has traditionally been treated with drugs such as benzodiazepines that nonspecifically shut down the entire brain," says psychiatry and behavior science professor Luis de Lecea "Now we see the possibility of developing therapies that, by narrowly targeting this newly identified circuit, could induce much higher-quality sleep.”

From Stanford:

It makes intuitive sense that the reward system, which motivates goal-directed behaviors such as fleeing from predators or looking for food, and our sleep-wake cycle would coordinate with one another at some point. You can’t seek food in your sleep, unless you’re an adept sleepwalker. Conversely, getting out of bed is a lot easier when you’re excited about the day ahead of you...

The reward system’s circuitry is similar in all vertebrates, from fish, frogs and falcons to fishermen and fashion models. A chemical called dopamine plays a crucial role in firing up this circuitry.

Neuroscientists know that a particular brain structure, the ventral tegmental area, or VTA, is the origin of numerous dopamine-secreting nerve fibers that run in discrete tracts to many different parts of the brain. A plurality of these fibers go to the nucleus accumbens, a forebrain structure particularly implicated in generating feelings of pleasure in anticipation of, or response to, obtaining a desired objective.

“Since many reward-circuit-activating drugs such as amphetamines that work by stimulating dopamine secretion also keep users awake, it’s natural to ask if dopamine plays a key role in the sleep-wake cycle as well as in reward,” Eban-Rothschild said.

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The spores of club moss have magical powers

Lycopodium powder, made from dry spores of clubmoss plants, is used by magicians and special effects artists as flash powder (aka "dragon's breath"), as a lubricant on latex gloves and condoms, and of course to do the impressive science experiments seen in the video above.

"In physics experiments and demonstrations, lycopodium powder is used to make sound waves in air visible for observation and measurement, and to make a pattern of electrostatic charge visible," according to Wikipedia. "The powder is also highly hydrophobic; if the surface of a cup of water is coated with lycopodium powder, a finger or other object inserted straight into the cup will come out dusted with the powder but remain perfectly dry."

You can purchase an inexpensive supply from Amazon: Lycopodium Powder

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Before Breitbart, before Trump, Bannon bullied people in Biosphere 2

Steve Bannon, head of  Breitbart News, was named to the new position of campaign chief executive officer. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

The Breitbart chief and Trump campaign CEO's sexist bullying was evident in the early days of Biosphere 2 in Arizona, then a quasi “space colonization” and environmental research project.

Stephen K. Bannon, who recently took a leave from running Breitbart.com to become Donald Trump’s chief campaign executive, once bullied women in the historic environmental research project known as Biosphere 2.

He called a female science researcher who wrote a report about safety concerns a “deluded” “bimbo,” and threatened to “ram it down her (expletive) throat.” He also threatened to “kick her ass.”

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Do Your Part! Illegally Download Scientific Papers

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Jesse Singal requested this shoop, and I delivered. After all, who's downloading pirated papers? Everyone. (I've uploaded this to Redbubble if you'd like a poster—of course, you can just as well pirate it.) Read the rest

Hydraulic press vs. carbon fiber yields interesting results

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Hydraulic Press Channel shows why carbon fiber and variants like carbon nanotubes have so many uses: depending on the configuration, they can hold up against the hydraulic press. Read the rest

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