Astonishing X-ray image of the whole sky

NASA released this incredible image of the sky that depicts 22 months of X-ray data captured from the International Space Station using the Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER). From NASA:

“Even with minimal processing, this image reveals the Cygnus Loop, a supernova remnant about 90 light-years across and thought to be 5,000 to 8,000 years old,” said Keith Gendreau, the mission’s principal investigator at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “We’re gradually building up a new X-ray image of the whole sky, and it’s possible NICER’s nighttime sweeps will uncover previously unknown sources.”

NICER’s primary mission is to determine the size of dense remains of dead stars called neutron stars — some of which we see as pulsars — to a precision of 5%. These measurements will finally allow physicists to solve the mystery of what form of matter exists in their incredibly compressed cores. Pulsars, rapidly spinning neutron stars that appear to “pulse” bright light, are ideally suited to this “mass-radius” research and are some of NICER’s regular targets.

Other frequently visited pulsars are studied as part of NICER's Station Explorer for X-ray Timing and Navigation Technology (SEXTANT) experiment, which uses the precise timing of pulsar X-ray pulses to autonomously determine NICER’s position and speed in space. It’s essentially a galactic GPS system. When mature, this technology will enable spacecraft to navigate themselves throughout the solar system — and beyond.

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Beautiful book, augmented reality, and film about stunning rocket launches

In the realm of rocket geeks and space nerds, filmmakers MaryLiz Bender and Ryan Chylinski have dream jobs. The pair have the equivalent of "backstage passes" to SpaceX, NASA and ULA rocket launches where they capture and share breathtaking videos that convey the power, risk, and thrill of space exploration. The work of their studio, called Cosmic Perspective, is visceral, wondrous, and inspiring. Now Bender and Chylinski are creating a fascinating art book enhanced with augmented reality along with a companion short film "documenting humanity's grand adventure to space." Titled "Guidance Internal: Lessons from Astronauts," the book, film, and their touring Cosmic Perspective show lies at the intersection of science and art "to inspire hope, elevate empathy, and bring people together." They've launched a Kickstarter to support the project and it looks, well, stellar.

From Kickstarter:

The art and the pages in this book come to life immediately teleporting you to rocket launch pads, directly to our intimate interviews with astronauts and the people sending missions to space. We fuse art with science blending our love of high-dynamic range photography with compelling video to capture the emotion, excitement, and gravity of these events. We also give you a front-row seat to transformative performances by artists inspired by these experiences.

We place autonomous high-resolution and ultra-high speed video cameras at the launchpads of SpaceX, NASA, and ULA. These are cameras we place well ahead of the liftoff, design to survive the elements and, since no humans can be anywhere near the rockets, trigger without any human interaction.

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Microscopic robots carry stem cells through a mouse's body

The 1990s nanotechnology dream of tiny robots swimming through our blood stream to treat disease is moving (verrrry) slowly but surely toward reality. In a new milestone, researchers used an external magnetic field to steer microbots through a live mouse's body carrying therapeutic stem cells. From IEEE Spectrum:

..Delivering stem cells typically requires an injection with a needle, which lowers the survival rate of the stem cells, and limits their reach in the body. Microrobots, however, have the potential to deliver stem cells to precise, hard-to-reach areas, with less damage to surrounding tissue, and better survival rates, says Jin-young Kim, a principle investigator at DGIST-ETH Microrobotics Research Center, and an author on the paper.... The team fabricated the robots with 3D laser lithography, and designed them in two shapes: spherical and helical. Using a rotating magnetic field, the scientists navigated the spherical-shaped bots with a rolling motion, and the helical bots with a corkscrew motion. These styles of locomotion proved more efficient than that from a simple pulling force, and were more suitable for use in biological fluids, the scientists reported....

Kim says he and his colleagues are developing imaging systems that will enable them to view in real time the locomotion of their microrobots in live animals.

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The Reality Bubble: how humanity's collective blindspots render us incapable of seeing danger until it's too late (and what to do about it)

Ziya Tong is a veteran science reporter who spent years hosting Discovery's flagship science program, Daily Planet: it's the sort of job that gives you a very broad, interdisciplinary view of the sciences, and it shows in her debut book, The Reality Bubble: Blind Spots, Hidden Truths, and the Dangerous Illusions that Shape Our World, a tour of ten ways in which our senses, our society, and our political system leads us to systematically misunderstand the world, to our deadly detriment. Read the rest

Global sea levels could rise 6 feet by year 2100, twice as high as previous estimates

A new study on polar ice sheet melt warns that global sea levels could rise by almost six feet by the year 2100, an estimate twice as high as previously predicted. Read the rest

NASA launching living things into deep space for the first time (on purpose) in nearly 50 years

Next year, NASA's Artemis 1 mission will carry a baker's dozen of small cubesats to space, including one that's home to a colony of yeast cells. That cubesat, BioSentinel, will orbit the sun to help scientists understand how space radiation affects living organisms outside of Low Earth Orbit. NASA hasn't purposely sent any lifeforms beyond Low Earth Orbit since the last Apollo moon landing in 1972. (Purposely is a key word because of course every probe launched carries some accidental microbial contamination.) From Space.com:

But Apollo 17 lasted less than two weeks. BioSentinel will gather data for nine to 12 months, opening a window on the long-term effects of deep-space radiation on DNA and DNA repair...

The 30-lb. (14 kilograms) satellite will carry two different varieties of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae: the normal "wild type," which is quite radiation-resistant, and a mutant type, which is much more sensitive because it can't repair its DNA nearly as well.

"Importantly, yeast's DNA damage-repair process is highly similar to that of humans, making it a robust translational model," NASA officials wrote on the BioSentinel fact sheet. "BioSentinel's results will be critical for interpreting the effects of space radiation exposure, reducing the risk associated with long-term human exploration and validating existing models of the effects of space radiation on living organisms."

From NASA:

BioSentinel’s microfluidics card (seen above), designed at NASA Ames, will be used to study the impact of interplanetary space radiation on yeast. Once in orbit, the growth and metabolic activity of the yeast will be measured using a 3-color LED detection system and a metabolic indicator dye.

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The weight of a kilogram changed overnight; the length of a second may be next

A new definition of kilogram went into effect today. No longer is the kilogram defined by Le Grand K, a 140-year-old weight under glass in a secret location near Paris. Now it's determined by the Planck constant, based on physicist Max Planck's theory that "electromagnetic energy at a given frequency could only be emitted in discrete amounts, or quanta, whose energy is proportional to h, now known as the Planck constant." Scientists at the 26th General Conference on Weights and Measures also redefined the kelvin, the ampere, and the mole. UP next, the second! The good news is that the changes are so small that they won't matter to most of us. From Science News:

Currently, the second is defined by atomic clocks made of cesium atoms. Those atoms absorb a certain frequency of light. The wiggling of the light’s electromagnetic waves functions like the pendulum on a grandfather clock, rhythmically keeping time. One second is defined as 9,192,631,770 oscillations of the light.

But a new generation of atomic clocks, known as optical atomic clocks, outdo the cesium clocks (SN: 11/11/17, p. 8). “Their performance is a lot better than what currently defines the second,” says physicist Andrew Ludlow of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colo. Because those optical atomic clocks operate at a higher frequency, their “ticks” are more closely spaced, making them about 100 times more precise than cesium clocks.

Ideally, the length of a second should be defined using the most precise timepieces available.

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100 proofs the Earth is a globe

Here's the first 14 of 100 proofs that the Earth is a globe, with the rest still to come author David Morgan-Mar. [via]

1. The Blue Marble

The most straightforward way to check the shape of the Earth is to look at it. There’s one small problem, though. To see the shape of the Earth as a whole, you need to be far enough away from it. For most of human history, this has not been possible. It was only with the advent of the space age that our technology has allowed us to send a human being, or a camera, more than a few kilometres from the surface.

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NASA probe spots the final lunar resting place of the crashed Israeli spacecraft

Last month, Israeli non-profit SpaceIL's Beresheet probe made it to the lunar surface but sadly it wasn't a soft landing. Beresheet was the first private attempt at a lunar landing and they got pretty damn close. A couple weeks after the crash, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter orbited over the area and NASA has released images that show the impact site. From NASA:

LROC took this image from 56 miles (90 kilometers) above the surface. The cameras captured a dark smudge, about 10 meters wide, that indicates the point of impact. The dark tone suggests a surface roughened by the hard landing, which is less reflective than a clean, smooth surface.

From so far away, LROC could not detect whether Beresheet formed a surface crater upon impact. It’s possible the crater is just too small to show up in photos. Another possibility is that Beresheet formed a small indent instead of a crater, given its low angle of approach (around 8.4 degrees relative to the surface), light mass (compared to a dense meteoroid of the same size), and low velocity (again, relative to a meteoroid of the same size; Beresheet’s speed was still faster than most speeding bullets).

The light halo around the smudge could have formed from gas associated with the impact or from fine soil particles blown outward during Beresheet’s descent, which smoothed out the soil around the landing site, making it highly reflective...

Most importantly, we knew the coordinates of the landing site within a few miles thanks to radio tracking of Beresheet, and we have 11 “before” images of the area, spanning a decade, and three “after” images.

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Despite the hype, the CBD molecule is actually pretty amazeballs

CBD is definitely screaming up toward the peak of inflated expectations, but it's not pure grift: the actual molecule and the way it interacts with our bodies is pretty amazing. Read the rest

Quantum Physics for Babies and Rocket Science for Babies

Quantum Physics for Babies and Rocket Science for Babies are the kind of board books you’d find on a toddler’s shelf. They have stiff, tear-proof cardboard pages, simple illustrations, and minimal text. But they actually explain the subjects on a (very) high level. The author, Chris Ferrie, is a physicist and Senior Lecturer for Quantum Software and Information at the University of Technology Sydney.

I finally learned why quantum physics is called quantum physics! And even though I know how a wing moving through air goes up, the rocket science book reinforced the concept for me.

These books will be entertaining for kids age 2 and up, but the concepts, even though clearly and simply presented, are better suited for readers from age 5-105. Read the rest

New song from Brian Eno's forthcoming expanded edition of "Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks"

In 1983, Brian Eno with collaborators Roger Eno and Daniel Lanois released "Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks," a stunning ambient score for Al Reinert's glorious space documentary "For All Mankind." On July 19, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, Eno is reissuing that record accompanied by 11 new tracks -- five composed by Brian Eno, three from Lanois, and three from Roger Eno. The new collection is titled "For All Mankind." Above is a video for one of the new tracks, Brian Eno's "Like I Was a Spectator."

More details in this announcement.

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Auction: Apollo 11 lunar landing manual that flew to the moon and back

The Apollo 11 Lunar Module Timeline Book was a key onboard reference for the heroic astronauts who made the first moon landing on July 20, 1969. Fifty years later, it'll go up for auction at Christies this summer as part of their sale "One Giant Leap: Celebrating Space Exploration 50 Years after Apollo 11." It's expected to fetch between $7 and $9 million. And yes, it really should be in the Smithsonian. According to Reuters, it's being sold someone who purchased it from astronaut Buzz Aldrin. From Christies:

Aldrin had written Eagle’s coordinates in the Sea of Tranquility on page 10 of the book — the first writing by a human being on a celestial body other than Earth....

The Timeline Book narrates the entire Eagle voyage from inspection, undocking, lunar surface descent and ascent, to the rendezvous with Michael Collins aboard the Command Module in lunar orbit. The book contains nearly 150 annotations and completion checkmarks made in real-time by Aldrin and Armstrong. Traces of what appears to be lunar dust are on the transfer list pages that detail the movement of lunar rock samples and equipment from Eagle to Columbia.

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Why birds fly in a V formation

Why do many birds fly in a V formation? The wonderful video curators at The Kid Should See This came across this excellent 2014 clip above from the science journal Nature explaining research into the aerodynamic advantages of the formation. From Nature:

...UK's Royal Veterinary College put data loggers on ibises to record their position, speed and wing flaps when they migrated. The ibises position themselves within the V so that they benefit from the flow of air created by the bird in front. They carefully time their wing flaps with their flock mates', to get an extra lift when flying high.

More at Nature: "Precision formation flight astounds scientists" Read the rest

Magical science demonstration of water not spilling from an upside down glass

This gravity defying water trick, watch til the end. from r/blackmagicfuckery

A science teacher uses a classic but eternally astonishing magic trick in a lesson on atmospheric pressure and surface tension. The real magic though is the infectious curiosity she sparks in her students.

(Here's the secret and the science.) Read the rest

Cute, floating cube robots arrive at the International Space Station

A few days ago, two little robots arrived at the International Space Station to help astronauts with simple tasks. Called Astrobees, the cube bots are 12" x 12" x 12" and propelled around the microgravity environment by small fans. The bots are named Honey and Bumble. A third, Queen, remains on Earth. From NASA:

Working autonomously or via remote control by astronauts, flight controllers or researchers on the ground, the robots are designed to complete tasks such as taking inventory, documenting experiments conducted by astronauts with their built-in cameras or working together to move cargo throughout the station. In addition, the system serves as a research platform that can be outfitted and programmed to carry out experiments in microgravity - helping us to learn more about how robotics can benefit astronauts in space.

(via Space.com)

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What is a nanosecond anyway? Computing pioneer Grace Hopper shows us (1983)

This is pioneering computer scientist and US Navy read admiral Grace Hopper (1906-1992) explaining the concept of a nanosecond. From the Computer History Museum:

(Hopper) held a B.S. in mathematics and physics from Vassar College (1928) and an M.S. (1930) and Ph.D in mathematics (1934) from Yale University.

Hopper began her career teaching at Vassar and taught there from 1931 to 1943, when she joined the u.s. Navy Reserve. Her first assignment was to work with Professor Howard Aiken of the Harvard Computation Laboratory on problems of military significance.

Hopper remained at Harvard until 1949, when she joined the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation, led by the designers of the groundbreaking ENIAC computer system. There, she developed one of the world's first compilers and compiler-based programming languages. In 1959, Hopper played an important role in defining a new easy-to- use programming language. The result was COBOL, probably the most successful programming language for business applications in history.

(via Kottke) Read the rest

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