NASA Finds Lost Mars ProbeAfter more than 11 years of mystery, the European Space Agency has finally found their long lost Mars lander, the Beagle-2. The tiny spacecraft was recently spotted in high-resolution images taken ... More >
Is Dark Snow Bad?The snow in the America's Heartland isn't as "snow white" as one might hope. That's because pollution trapped in the snow is making it darker. Dark snow often contains black carbon—a ... More >
Photos Of SpaceX's Failed Rocket LandingEarly this morning, Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, released images from the company's rocket landing attempt on Saturday. The photos show how the Falcon 9 rocket did indeed hit its intended landing ... More >
How a Cyberattack Causes Physical DamageThe terrifying specter of a future of cyberattacks is that someday, a malicious actor will reach through the internet and cause real, tangible, physical harm. It sounds like a Hollywood plot: a ... More >
How do Planetary Flybys Work?Gravity assists -- flybys -- are pretty neat. These precision maneuvers that involve harnessing and using the gravity of a planet to accelerate and direct a spacecraft to its destination. It's ... More >
The Rosetta mission made history last year, by being the first manmade spacecraft to ever orbit or land on a comet. Things didn't go exactly as planned, though. The lander Philae bounced around and got lost somewhere on the comet's surface. Wherever it is, it's not getting enough sunlight on its solar panels to keep it fully charged, so ESA has shut it down until the springtime, when the comet will be closer to the Sun. Meanwhile, the orbiter has been busy collecting data. The journal Science just published a boatload of new findings from the duck-shaped Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Here are some of our favorites.
News reports say that 11 of the 12 game balls used by the New England Patriots in their AFC championship game against the Indianapolis Colts were deflated, showing about 2 pounds per square inch (psi) less pressure than the 13 psi required by the rules, so it seems that the most bizarre sports scandal of recent memory is real. But there are still plenty of questions: why would a team deflate footballs? Could there be another explanation? And most importantly, what does physics tell us about all this?
In early March, NASA's Dawn spacecraft will enter the orbit of the dwarf planet Ceres. “We're going to see a whole new world,” says Marc Rayman, Dawn's chief engineer and mission director. Eight years since its launch, and four years after visiting the second-largest object in the asteroid belt, Vesta, Dawn will be the first spacecraft to orbit two alien protoplanets in a single mission.
There is only so much Mars a rover can see from the ground. A drone scout could let the rover see further, so NASA's working on a small flying robot copter for a future Mars mission. Drones are proving themselves cheap and versatile on Earth, so it's natural to think they might be useful on Mars too. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory just released a video about their Mars Helicopter, designed to do just that.
But the trends that dominated robotics in 2014 weren't flash-in-the-pan fads. Last year's embarrassing drone antics, from buzzing sporting events to crashing in national parks, already seem quaint compared to the meth-hauling drone discovered in Mexico this week. And the climate of AI panic created last year by Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking has already spilled over into 2015, with the disastrous coverage of an open letter on AI safety, and $10M in funding from Musk himself towards research that would avert a superintelligent apocalypse. Hollywood, meanwhile, is still oscillating between the occasional fascinating thought experiment about intelligent machines, and its standard fever dreams of killbots as blood-thirsty as they are boring.
Drones work best operating in packs. Last year, a study by the RAND corporation showed that when two or more drones are tracking the same target, they are much more successful at staying on its trail. Right now, however, flying drones is very labor intensive, with each drone requiring a team of pilots and observers. DARPA wants to solve both of these problems by putting more drones in the sky -- with fewer humans controlling them.
Intelligence agencies, the spies and spooks and analysts grouped under three letter acronyms, exist in part to answer a difficult question that dates back to antiquity: Is it possible to predict the future, and, if so, how do we do it? A study published this month in the Journal of Experimental Psychology answers the question at least in part: Prediction is a skill, but it takes a special environment to develop that skill.
In the transitory space between Mexico's Tijuana and America's San Ysidro, the drone flew. Six rotors carried it forward, and strapped to its body were six packets of methamphetamine, weighing more than six pounds. Discovered by Tijuana police crashed in a parking lot just shy of the San Ysidro border crossing, the drone never completed its illicit mission.
When the guy in the cubicle next to you microwaves his tikka masala or tears open a bag of chips, your nose and ears perk up — food. Your senses trigger your brain to, maybe, head for the break room searching for a snack of your own, or even steal some of his chips. (Or maybe you just get annoyed and tell him to eat elsewhere.)
The havoc that Ebola is wreaking in West Africa cannot be understated. With a total of 21,200 people infected since March 2014, the disease is shredding the social fabric of Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, leaving 8,400 dead. People live in fear, afraid to shake others' hands. Survivors are shunned, and those suspected of carrying the disease are being physically assaulted in some regions. Schools are closed, and economies have been ravaged.