A five tonne piece of space junk is hurtling out of control towards Earth and is expected to hit the ground sometime this weekend.NASA says that the defunct Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS), which was launched in 1991 to study climate change, will make impact somewhere between 57° south latitude and 57° north latitude - basically the entire populated world.
I'm a 28-year-old gadget nerd. Like many of my generation, I don't often read instruction manuals. In dealings with parents, relatives and older friends, I've often struggled to wrap my head around what it is about technology that so fundamentally baffles members of generations past. Is it a fear of experimentation with the unknown? How can something that feels imprinted on my DNA be so utterly foreign to someone else? It's a feeling shared by any son or daughter visiting home who, after a quick hug from mom and dad, is led unsubtly by the arm over to the computer desk: "Fix this. Please."
Venture into any apartment, and you're likely to find an object used for something other than its intended purpose. We've seen ground coffee used to repel ants, curtain fabric used as wallpaper, cardboard boxes used as coffee tables, and to the delight of DIY enthusiasts everywhere, a La-Z-Boy converted into a motorised easy chair. While most of us don't possess the expertise needed to turn chairs into moving vehicles, we've all struggled with the question of whether to dispose of an old household item, or to save it in case it came in handy later. Care to guess what PopSci would tell you to do?
The Russian Soyuz TMA-21 spacecraft, carrying three astronauts (Commander Andrei Borisenko and Alexander Samokutyayev, both Russian, and American Ron Garan) safely landed this morning in Kazakhstan, bringing them home after five months on the International Space Station. The landing, about 151 km southeast of the smallish Kazakh city Zhezkazgan, wasn't entirely flawless--mission control lost contact with the capsule briefly--but the landing itself was very smooth.
A new species of dolphin was discovered by Australian zoologists off the coast of Melbourne, after they realized the 150 or so porpoises that were previously thought to be bottlenose dolphins actually differed significantly in skull shape and DNA. That, kids, is why you should always double-check your homework. Or, you know, dolphin skull shape. Same thing.
A cache of feathers preserved in amber, dating from around 70 to 85 million years ago, was just found in Canada, showing that border between winged dinosaurs and the earliest avians. The study indicates that these feathers, relatively modern, were already appearing even before the non-avian dinosaurs were extinct.
The rumbling you feel driving along a bridge may soon serve a purpose beyond just waking you up behind the wheel. Researchers at MIT have developed a tiny energy-harvester that is able to harness low-frequency vibrations like those made by a bridge or pipeline and converting them to electricity for wireless sensors.
In literature and folklore (and the occasional video game), the blue rose signifies the impossible, or mystery, or the unquenchable. It's not much of a leap, really; roses are ubiquitous, but due to a genetic barrier, a blue rose is naturally impossible. Of course, there's no particular reason to do what that meddling bully nature wants us to do, so a Japanese company has genetically modified a rose to create...well, it's not quite blue, but it's certainly closer than any previous effort.
A mournful French horn blows. An angsty Luke Skywalker stomps out of his aunt and uncle's sand hut and peers up at Tatooine's double sunset, his hair blowing in the breeze. It's a memorable scene from Star Wars-but now, a precedent for such a sky with two suns has been found in our universe.
Canon's S90 ushered in a new era of point-and-shoots, where a pocketable camera offered control and quality almost equal to a DSLR. The newest model in this line, the S100, continues the trend: the sensor gets a bump from 10-megapixel to 12.1, it has a new processor (claimed to be faster, more accurate in low light, and with better color reproduction), the ISO and video resolution have improved, and it's got built-in GPS geotagging, so you'll know where your photos were taken. Our friends at Popular Photography call it a "robust update," and considering it's updating just about the best point-and-shoot on the market, that's saying something. Read more at PopPhoto.