Voyager 2's new messages home illuminate the mysteries of interstellar space

In 1977, NASA launched two spacecraft, Voyager 1 and 2, on a grand tour of the solar system and into the mysteries of interstellar space. Famously attached to each of these probes is the Voyager Golden Record containing a message for any extraterrestrial intelligence that might encounter it, perhaps billions of years from now. Voyager 1 entered interstellar space in 2012. Last year, Voyager 2 joined its twin beyond the heliosphere, described by NASA as "the protective bubble of particles and magnetic fields created by our Sun." Today sees the publication of several scientific papers analyzing the data that Voyager 2 has sent back since its crossing. Congratulations to the inspiring scientists and engineers behind these latest papers and the incredible Voyager mission, still going strong 40+ years later! From NASA:

Each paper details the findings from one of Voyager 2's five operating science instruments: a magnetic field sensor, two instruments to detect energetic particles in different energy ranges and two instruments for studying plasma (a gas composed of charged particles). Taken together, the findings help paint a picture of this cosmic shoreline, where the environment created by our Sun ends and the vast ocean of interstellar space begins.

The Sun's heliosphere is like a ship sailing through interstellar space. Both the heliosphere and interstellar space are filled with plasma, a gas that has had some of its atoms stripped of their electrons. The plasma inside the heliosphere is hot and sparse, while the plasma in interstellar space is colder and denser.

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Teen uses external cameras and projection-mapping onto the a-pillar to "solve" blind-spots

"Improving Automobile Safety by Removing Blind Spots" is 14 year old Alaina Gassler's prizewinning science-fair project, which uses cameras mounted to the exterior of the car and feeding their video to internal projectors, which projection-map them onto the a-pillars that otherwise obscure the driver's view. Read the rest

Decades of antigravity research went nowhere

Brett Tingley writes about 70 years' research into anti-gravity and similar fields of science fiction, an effort to harness nature's weakest force to military needs. It's gone nowhere, obviously—or has it?

keep in mind that all of this information comes from unclassified sources, and there is definitely more of it than just what is represented here. We can only wonder how much work has been done in the classified realm on what was once openly considered the next massive revolution in aerospace technology.

The Truth Is The Military Has Been Researching "Anti-Gravity" For Nearly 70 Years [The Drive] Read the rest

The 2019 Halloween Candy Hierarchy

A HISTORY

It began, as all things do, with a geology joke. We ranked candy based on their location in various geological strata, both real and imagined. The strata, not the ranking. In 2006, we compiled years of lived experience into a hierarchy of candy preference for Halloween. Not all candy. Not all times. But for trick or treating purposes. 

Let’s talk candy rankings, then, which have become a kind of cottage industry in the last decade’s social-media age of the internet. In fact, candy rankings and arguments over their perceived accuracy might be the perfect distillation of what a certain kind of internet is good for. It lets people argue over opinion; its conclusions thus have to be constantly modified and adjusted; also there are no conclusions, of course, because it is a fickle game of idle speculation; it’s low stakes fun; and reasonable people can disagree with unreasonable arguments. These are great things for hashing out the enjoyment of various shapes of sugar. Good on you, social media. They are not necessarily great things that go beyond idle speculation, for actual democratic society, for governance or policy or the protection of human dignity. 

Candy, though. And Halloween. There will be rankings (immediately below), then deliberations on history (further below) and a beautiful chart (furthest below). There is a hierarchy. We are making our priority claim.

 

The Candy Hierarchy (2019)

Any full-sized candy barReese’s Peanut Butter CupsKit KatTwixSnickersCash, or other forms of legal tenderPeanut M&M’sRegular M&MsNestle CrunchTolberone something or otherMilky WayLindt TruffleRolosThree MusketeersHershey's Dark ChocolateYork Peppermint Patties100 Grand BarSkittlesStarburstHershey’s Milk ChocolateHeath BarJunior MintsCaramellosNerdsMilk DudsHershey's KissesJolly Ranchers (good flavor)Cadbury Creme EggsSwedish FishGummy Bears straight upSmarties (American)LemonHeadsGlow sticksMint JulepsVicodinPixy StixLicorice (not black)LaffyTaffyLollipopsMint KissesMinibags of chipsBottle CapsSmarties (Commonwealth)

Candy Corn

Now'n'LatersDotsKinder Happy HippoGoo Goo ClustersFuzzy PeachesHard CandyGood N' PlentyLicorice (yes black)Reggie Jackson BarChicletsTrail MixHugs (actual physical hugs)Bonkers (the candy)MaynardsSweetums (a friend to diabetes)Healthy FruitBlack JacksPencilsThose odd marshmallow circus peanut thingsJolly Rancher (bad flavor)Spotted DickGeneric Brand AcetaminophenBox'o'RaisinsWhole Wheat anythingAnonymous brown globs that come in black & orange wrappers (Mary Janes)Creepy Religious comics/Chick TractsKale smoothieWhite BreadDental paraphenaliaGum from baseball cardsCandy that is clearly just the stuff given out for free at restaurantsBroken glow stick

 

We revised the original hierarchy each year between 2006 and 2009 to include feedback from readers and onlookers back at our blog The World’s Fair. Read the rest

A cloud weighs as much as 300 cars so why doesn't it fall on our heads?

This fascinating video from the American Chemical Society answers that question but unfortunately provides no answers about why so many clouds look like bunnies.

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Researchers' budget blown when a migrating eagle's tracker chip connects to an Iranian cellular tower and sends expensive SMSes

Volunteers at Novosibirsk's Wild Animal Rehabilitation Centre put trackers on 13 wild eagles to track their migration patterns; the trackers connected to cellular towers and message the researchers with the birds' location. Read the rest

Russia building nuclear science center in Rwanda

Russia's state nuclear company Rosatom announced on Twitter today they have signed a deal with The Republic of Rwanda to build a center for nuclear science and technology. Read the rest

US Air Force has developed unusual liquid metal conductor

The US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has developed a new form of liquid metal with very strange conductive properties. Usually, when a flexible, conductive material is stressed or stretched, its electrical conductivity drops and resistance increases when it's stress or stretched. Just the opposite, Air Force's novel "Polymerized Liquid Metal Networks... can be strained up to 700%, autonomously respond to that strain to keep the resistance between those two states virtually the same, and still return to their original state." The researchers published their results in the scientific journal Advanced Materials. From the Air Force:

It is all due to the self-organized nanostructure within the material that performs these responses automatically.

“This response to stretching is the exact opposite of what you would expect,” said Dr. Christopher Tabor, AFRL lead research scientist on the project. “Typically a material will increase in resistance as it is stretched simply because the current has to pass through more material. Experimenting with these liquid metal systems and seeing the opposite response was completely unexpected and frankly unbelievable until we understood what was going on.”

Wires maintaining their properties under these different kinds of mechanical conditions have many applications, such as next-generation wearable electronics. For instance, the material could be integrated into a long-sleeve garment and used for transferring power through the shirt and across the body in a way that bending an elbow or rotating a shoulder won’t change the power transferred.

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Rats trained to drive tiny cars in pursuit of Froot Loops

Researchers successfully taught rats how to drive small cars in the pursuit of Froot Loops cereal. Video below. Psychologist Kelly Lambert and her colleagues at the University of Richmond conducted the experiment to gain insight into animal cognition. Learning to drive also lowered the rats' stress as measured by hormone levels. From New Scientist:

They constructed a tiny car out of a clear plastic food container on wheels, with an aluminium floor and three copper bars functioning as a steering wheel. When a rat stood on the aluminium floor and gripped the copper bars with their paws, they completed an electrical circuit that propelled the car forward. Touching the left, centre or right bar steered the car in different directions.

The ability of rats to drive these cars demonstrates the “neuroplasticity” of their brains, says Lambert. This refers to their ability to respond flexibly to novel challenges. “I do believe that rats are smarter than most people perceive them to be, and that most animals are smarter in unique ways than we think,” she says.

Researchers could potentially replace traditional maze tests with more complex driving tasks when using rat models to study neuropsychiatric conditions, says Lambert. For example, driving tests could be used to probe the effects of Parkinson’s disease on motor skills and spatial awareness, or the effects of depression on motivation, she says. “If we use more realistic and challenging models, it may provide more meaningful data,” she says.

"Enriched Environment Exposure Accelerates Rodent Driving Skills" (Behavioral Brain Research)

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Russian CRISPR scientist announces new controversial effort to edit genes that cause deafness

Russian scientist Denis Rebrikov claims that he's begun a gene-editing process to eventually enable couples who both carry a specific genetic mutation that causes deafness to birth children who can hear. Rebrikov formerly announced his effort to use the CRISPR tool for gene editing to create babies resistant to HIV. From Nature:

In his e-mail to Nature, Rebrikov makes clear that he does not plan to create (a gene-edited) baby yet — and that his previously reported plan to apply this month for permission to implant gene-edited embryos in women has been pushed back.

Instead, he says that he will soon publish the results of his egg experiments, which also involved testing CRISPR’s ability to repair the gene linked to deafness, called GJB2, in bodily cells taken from people with this mutation. People with two mutated copies of GJB2 cannot hear well without interventions, such as hearing aids or cochlear implants. Rebrikov says these results will lay the groundwork for the clinical work.

Rebrikov adds that he has permission from a local review board to do his research, but that this does not allow transfer of gene-edited eggs into the womb and subsequent pregnancy...

Some scientists and ethicists also call into question the benefits of this procedure because hearing loss is not a fatal condition. “The project is recklessly opportunistic, clearly unethical and damages the credibility of a technology that is intended to help, not harm,” says Jennifer Doudna, a pioneer of the CRISPR gene-editing tool and a biologist at the University of California, Berkeley.

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What the hell is a "dimension" anyway?

Caltech theoretical physicist Sean Carroll, author of Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime, explains the concept of a "dimensions" at five different levels of complexity. Dr. Carroll sure has a big brane. Read the rest

Tasmanian tiger: thought to be extinct yet sighted two months ago

In 1936, the Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus) was declared to be extinct. Yet in the last three years, there have been eight reported sightings according to Tasmania's Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment. I hope it's true. From CNN:

While stories abound that some continue to live in the remote wilds of Tasmania, an island state off Australia's south coast, there has been no hard evidence to support this -- only claims of sightings, like the ones newly released.

One report last February said that two people, visiting Tasmania from Australia, were driving when an animal with a stiff tail and striped back walked onto the road.

The animal "turned and looked at the vehicle a couple of times" and "was in clear view for 12-15 seconds," the report read. Both people in the car "are 100% certain that the animal they saw was a thylacine."

Another report filed the same month described a striped "cat-like creature" moving through the mist in the distance.

image: Thylacines in a Washington DC zoo, c.1906 (public domain) Read the rest

Video: sea critters chow down on the carcass of a young whale

Who doesn't love a free meal?

From Nautilus Live:

During the final dive of this year’s Nautilus expedition season, our team discovered a whale fall while exploring Davidson Seamount off central California’s coast with researchers from Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The skeletal remains of the whale lying on its back are estimated to be 4-5 meters long. The team is working to identify the species, but it is confirmed to be a baleen whale as indicated by baleen remaining along the whale’s jawbones. While evidence of whale falls have been observed to remain on the seafloor for several years, this appears to be a relatively recent fall with baleen, blubber, and some internal organs remaining. The site also exhibits an interesting mid-stage of ecological succession, as both large scavengers like eel pouts are still stripping the skeleton of blubber, and bone-eating Osedax worms are starting to consume lipids (fats) from the bones.

There's no getting past how rare a sight this must be—just listen to the excitement in the voices of the scientists who came across this whale fall for the first time. Read the rest

World's oldest leftovers found in Israel cave. Guess what food?

The oldest leftovers in world history have been discovered, stashed inside Israel's Qesem Cave Read the rest

Diet and depression: what you eat impacts your mood

For years a friend has been telling my diet was hurting my general demeanor. Read the rest

Engineers developed a mathematical model of Ooblek

A favorite kitchen chemistry (and physics) experiment of kids (and adults), Ooblek is the weird result of mixing cornstarch with water. Now, MIT engineers have developed a mathematical model that can predict and simulate how the non-Newtonian fluid switches between liquid and solid depending on the pressure applied to it. From MIT News:

Aside from predicting what the stuff might do in the hands of toddlers, the new model can be useful in predicting how oobleck and other solutions of ultrafine particles might behave for military and industrial applications. Could an oobleck-like substance fill highway potholes and temporarily harden as a car drives over it? Or perhaps the slurry could pad the lining of bulletproof vests, morphing briefly into an added shield against sudden impacts. With the team’s new oobleck model, designers and engineers can start to explore such possibilities.

“It’s a simple material to make — you go to the grocery store, buy cornstarch, then turn on your faucet,” says Ken Kamrin, associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT. “But it turns out the rules that govern how this material flows are very nuanced...”

Kamrin’s primary work focuses on characterizing the flow of granular material such as sand. Over the years, he’s developed a mathematical model that accurately predicts the flow of dry grains under a number of different conditions and environments. When (grad student Aaron) Baumgarten joined the group, the researchers started work on a model to describe how saturated wet sand moves. It was around this time that Kamrin and Baumgarten saw a scientific talk on oobleck.

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Nobel Prize in Chemistry split 3 ways for lithium-ion battery research

From left: Akira Yoshino, Dr. M. Stanley Whittingham and Dr. John Goodenough (Charles Dharapak / Yoshiaki Sakamoto / Kyodo News / Binghamton University)

The 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to three scientists whose work developing lithium-ion batteries made mobile phones, iPads, laptops, and electric cars possible.

The three recipients are U.S. engineer John B. Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham of the U.K., and Akira Yoshino of Japan. They will share the 9 million Swedish kronor ($906,000) prize awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Read the rest

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