Australian Popular Science News news from, 26 Jan 2015 13:19:39 +1000105 Cool Things We Just Learned About Rosetta's Rubber Ducky CometThe <a href="">Rosetta mission</a> 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 <em>Science</em> just published <a href="">a boatload of new findings</a> from the <a href="">duck-shaped</a> Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Here are some of our favorites.,399658Mon, 26 Jan 2015 12:02:19 +1000We're About To Visit A Tiny Planet In The Asteroid Belt For The First TimeWhile the world awaits the first visit of Pluto this July, another space mission will reach a strange world much closer to home. And months sooner.,399679Mon, 26 Jan 2015 12:02:16 +1000China gets Three Warships in One DayThe 20,000 ton Tanggula Shan is China's fourth Landing Platform Dock, with a built in well deck which allows Chinese Marines to start amphibious assaults out of the range of coastal defense.,399678Mon, 26 Jan 2015 12:02:13 +1000Football Physics And The Science Of Deflategate<a href="">News reports</a> 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?,399677Mon, 26 Jan 2015 12:02:08 +1000NASA's Dawn Mission Redefines What's Possible In Space ExplorationIn early March, NASA's Dawn spacecraft will <a href="">enter the orbit of the dwarf planet Ceres</a>. &#8220;We're going to see a whole new world,&#8221; 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, <a href="">Vesta</a>, Dawn will be the first spacecraft to orbit two alien protoplanets in a single mission.,399676Mon, 26 Jan 2015 12:02:04 +1000Scientists Slow Down The Speed Of Light As It Travels Through AirLight passes through air at about 299,000,000 meters per second, an accepted constant that hasn't been challenged&#8212;until now. By manipulating a single particle of light as it passed through free space, researchers have found a way to slow down the speed of light through air.,399675Mon, 26 Jan 2015 12:02:00 +1000Should We Put A Drone On Mars?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 <a href=";cmpid=pscau">just released</a> a video about their Mars Helicopter, designed to do just that.,399674Mon, 26 Jan 2015 12:01:57 +1000The Year Ahead (And Behind) in RoboticsBut 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.,399673Mon, 26 Jan 2015 12:01:54 +1000Twitter Can Tell If You're More Likely To Get Heart DiseaseTwitter can predict almost anything&#8212;including your risk of getting heart disease.,399672Mon, 26 Jan 2015 12:01:49 +1000Scientists Figure Out How To Unboil Eggs It has often been said that you can't unscramble an egg. But you might be able to unboil one.,399671Mon, 26 Jan 2015 12:01:47 +1000DARPA Wants Drones To Hunt In PacksDrones work best operating in packs. Last year, a <a href="">study by the RAND corporation</a> 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 <a href="">labor intensive</a>, 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.,399670Mon, 26 Jan 2015 12:01:42 +1000Can Intelligence Analysts Predict The Future?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 <em>Journal of Experimental Psychology</em> answers the question at least in part: Prediction is a skill, but it takes a special environment to develop that skill.,399645Fri, 23 Jan 2015 09:52:36 +1000Mexican Meth-Smuggling Drone Crashes Near San DiegoIn 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 <a href="">illicit mission</a>.,399644Fri, 23 Jan 2015 09:52:31 +1000Bats Listen For Others' Snacking Sounds to Help Them Find FoodWhen 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 &#8212; <em>food</em>. 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.),399643Fri, 23 Jan 2015 09:52:28 +1000Why The Ebola Epidemic Isn't As Devastating As Predicted (So Far) 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. <a href="">Survivors are shunned</a>, and those suspected of carrying the disease are being <a href="">physically assaulted</a> in some regions. Schools are closed, and economies have been ravaged.,399642Fri, 23 Jan 2015 09:52:26 +1000Watch These Great Horned Owls Eat, Sleep, And Look Majestic [Video]The Cornell Lab of Ornithology likes to spy on birds, and we're okay with that. In fact, it's kind of awesome, because we get to spy on them too.,399641Fri, 23 Jan 2015 09:52:22 +1000This Lego Robot Thinks Like A Worm&#8212;And Soon You Can Build Your Own A Lego robot programmed to act like a roundworm may signal the next big leap for artificial intelligence.,399640Fri, 23 Jan 2015 09:52:18 +1000Scientists Adjust Doomsday Clock Over Nuclear Threats And Climate ChangeIn a multitude of books, TV shows, and films dedicated to post-apocalyptic fiction, humanity loves to fantasize about its ultimate demise. But back in the real world, the actual apocalypse may be a little bit closer than we all would like to admit.,399639Fri, 23 Jan 2015 09:52:16 +1000Translucent Fish Found Alive Deep Under Antarctic Ice Think of it as finding a very cool Nemo. Scientists <a href=";org=PLR&amp;from=news&amp;cmpid=pscau">announced</a> yesterday that after drilling through 2,428 feet of ice they made a lively discovery&#8212;deep under all that ice were many different fish and marine invertebrates, alive and well.,399638Fri, 23 Jan 2015 09:52:14 +1000See Iceland's Lava Field From Space Sometimes Iceland really lives up to its name. For instance, in the picture above, the entire country is basically covered in snow and ice. With one notable exception. See that big black dot in the middle? No, not in the lower left--that's the largest natural lake in Iceland, Lake &#222;ingvallavatn, which is a favorite for snorkelers and scuba divers. We're talking about the beauty mark in the center-right, which is an absolutely massive lava flow originating from a fissure of the volcano <a href="">B&#225;r&#240;arbunga</a>.,399637Fri, 23 Jan 2015 09:52:12 +1000The 5 Most Interesting Announcements from Microsoft's Windows 10 EventWith its new version of Windows, Microsoft has done the seemingly impossible: It skipped right over version 9 and straight to 10. Really, though, the maker of the world's most popular operating system dropped a lot of major announcements during its press event about <a href=";cmpid=pscau">Windows 10</a> on Wednesday. Here are the top five most interesting decisions by Microsoft for its next OS update&#8212;not including <a href=";loc=contentwell&amp;lnk=microsoft-wants-you-to-believe-in-holograms&amp;cmpid=pscau">the holograms</a>.,399612Thu, 22 Jan 2015 13:34:19 +1000Why Do Sneezes Come In Twos and Threes?Sneezes never seem to be lonely. As soon as you expel your first mighty &#8220;achoo,&#8221; there's usually another sneeze lurking right behind to follow it up. For some people, there may be two, three, or even 10 that come after that original sneeze, making for an awful lot of &#8220;bless yous&#8221; from well-wishers nearby. So why is it that our sneezes seem to adhere to the buddy system?,399604Thu, 22 Jan 2015 09:58:42 +1000Bubble-Propelled Microbots Zoom Around Inside Live MiceLast year, in a lab in sunny San Diego, researchers fed a dozen mice a small drop each of a very special liquid. Inside the drops, invisible to the naked eye, were thousands of tube-shaped, microscopic motors. The motors made their way to the mice's stomachs, embedded in their stomach linings, and released their tiny payloads: nano-size flakes of gold. The research represented a major step toward putting microbots to work in human medicine, where they could one day ferry drugs efficiently into specific organs or even specific cells.,399603Thu, 22 Jan 2015 09:58:39 +1000Smart Keyboard Could Be Self-Powered, Self-Secured, Self-CleaningSure, your keyboard is good for turning thoughts into words&#8212;but couldn't it do more? Some clever scientists from universities in the U.S. and China have concocted <a href="">an even smarter, more powerful keyboard</a> that could not only enhance your security, but could also be self-powering.,399602Thu, 22 Jan 2015 09:58:37 +1000Redesigned E. Coli Resists Viruses And Might Make GMOs SaferAll of life on Earth speaks the same language. That language is the language of the genes. (Not love, or music, sorry. This is <em>Popular Science</em>.) Even vastly different species can run by pretty similar genetic principles. That's why scientists are able to make genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. You wouldn't be able to put genes from bacteria into corn plants if corn wasn't able to "read" the DNA of bacteria.,399601Thu, 22 Jan 2015 09:58:34 +1000When Will Humanity Finally Pull The Plug On Power Cords?In the mobile age, we're largely unfettered by wires, thanks in no small part to Wi-Fi, cellular networking, and the rise of laptops, smartphones, and tablets. But one thin tether keeps us perennially bound: power. Though battery technologies have improved, we still need to charge our devices regularly. So-called "wireless power"&#8212;charging or power transmitted to a device without the need to plug that device in&#8212;has long been (supposedly) just shy of mainstream adoption.,399600Thu, 22 Jan 2015 09:58:31 +1000Microsoft Wants You To Believe In HologramsHolograms have captivated our imaginations for a long time&#8212;for me, they go back as far as R2-D2 projecting an image of Princess Leia pleading for help. More recently, we've had <a href=";cmpid=pscau">rap concerts</a>, <a href=";cmpid=pscau">election coverage</a>, and even <a href=";cmpid=pscau">sitcoms</a> try to capitalize on the cachet of holograms. Now, Microsoft wants to usher in the area of holographic computing, with <a href=";cmpid=pscau">its new head-mounted HoloLens computing device</a>.,399599Thu, 22 Jan 2015 09:58:26 +1000Has Measles Begun a Triumphant Return?It's become a common refrain for any champion. As soon as you win the prize, a camera is there to hear the joyful refrain, &#8220;I'm going to Disneyland!&#8221; The carefully thought out marketing ploy has since become an analogy to reflect triumph in any arena. But the most recent visitor may have signaled a most unwanted victory.,399557Wed, 21 Jan 2015 08:55:47 +1000This Airplane Can Be Refueled By SunshineIf there are enough clear summer days in a row, Bye Aerospace's Sun Flyer may just live up to its name and charge in sunlight. Bye just sold twenty of their distinctive training airplanes to the <a href="">Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology</a>. If the Sun Flyers take off, they could signal a future of more sustainable flying.,399556Wed, 21 Jan 2015 08:55:44 +1000X-Ray Technique Helps Archaeologists Read Scrolls Preserved By Vesuvius EruptionSometimes, it takes a massive volcanic eruption to keep a library intact. When the ancient Roman towns of Herculaneum and Pompeii met their fiery ends at the hands of Mount Vesuvius, the vast quantities of ash and other materials ejected from the volcano preserved nearly everything in the towns for over a millennium. People were <a href="">instantly killed</a> by the searing heat, their last moments preserved in ash that coated their bodies. <a href="">Lewd graffiti</a> remained on buildings, <a href="">bread remained uneaten</a> and in Herculaneum, an entire library of papyrus scrolls was preserved.,399555Wed, 21 Jan 2015 08:55:40 +1000In the US, FDA Won't Regulate Most Health-Related Wearable DevicesIf you were waiting to hear the U.S. Food &amp; Drug Administration weigh in before you strap on a device with a fitness tracker, like a Fitbit, Pebble, or Apple Watch, well, good news: the government agency has released <a href=";utm_medium=email&amp;utm_source=govdelivery&amp;cmpid=pscau">a draft set of guidance</a> for the industry about how it plans on treating the burgeoning market of wearable health devices.,399554Wed, 21 Jan 2015 08:55:37 +1000Evolution Didn't Rob Snakes of Their Limbs - Other Animals Gained ThemSnakes don't have necks, shoulders, arms, hips, legs or any other familiar vertebrate body parts &#8212; but that doesn't mean they are simple animals. They might have evolved in a completely different way than scientists thought, a new study says.,399553Wed, 21 Jan 2015 08:55:35 +1000Dawn Spies New Features On Ceres&#65532;You might think we've thoroughly explored the solar system between the Sun and Pluto, but there is still much terrain we have yet to see. The dwarf planet Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and we have almost no idea what it looks like.,399552Wed, 21 Jan 2015 08:55:31 +1000Russian Robot Warrior Drives In A Circle In Front Of PutinKiller robots are a <a href="">reliable staple</a> of science fiction, a culmination of humanity's technological prowess turned against civilization as a cruel, cosmic joke. While this is a good premise for a movie, developments in <a href="">military robotics</a> are often seen as heralding a once-fictional robocalypse. However, a video released today, from Russian state-owned news channel RT, is a reassuring sign that deadly robots are still at best a thing of the future.,399551Wed, 21 Jan 2015 08:55:27 +1000Stick-On Tattoo Measures Blood Sugar Without NeedlesDiabetics often prick their fingers up to <a href="">eight times a day</a> to check their blood sugar. Researchers have long looked for a solution that provides constant monitoring without being so invasive, and researchers at the University of California San Diego have come up with a new needle-free design that could turn out to be less painful, yet just as effective, as the finger-prick method.,399550Wed, 21 Jan 2015 08:55:25 +1000The Future Of The PastA new site is attempting to put the enthusiasm and knowledge of amateur archeologists and historians to work on current archeological projects, with the help and guidance of professional academics. MicroPasts, a joint project of University College London, the British Museum, and the Arts and Humanities Research Council, is a new hybrid site combining citizen science and crowdfunding under one umbrella.,399522Tue, 20 Jan 2015 07:52:51 +1000CES 2015: This Robotic Head and Eye Massager Is As Awkward As It SoundsImagine walking several miles per day, all day, for the course of a week. Now imagine during that time you're navigating through a sea of people that are all vying for your attention, each of them hocking new electronic equipment that will most likely become vaporware. That, in essence, is what attending the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is like.,399521Tue, 20 Jan 2015 07:52:49 +1000Can Virtual Body Swapping Help Fight Racial Prejudice?In the wake of massive <a href="">#BlackLivesMatter</a> demonstrations, the ugly implications of racism in the United States have come to the foreground. Prejudice, whether conscious or unconscious, exists on a much wider scale than most of us would like to admit. In fact, you can glimpse into your own brain and measure its unconscious attitudes toward various objects and ideas by taking an <a href="">implicit association test</a>, or IAT. (The results might surprise you.),399520Tue, 20 Jan 2015 07:52:44 +1000Oh 'SMAP'! New NASA Satellite Will Help Predict Drought, Climate ChangeWhen it launches on January 29, a new satellite's mission will be simple: to measure one of the most important but least recognized sources of water on Earth. NASA's <a href="">SMAP</a> (Soil Moisture Active Passive) will measure soil moisture across the globe. That may seem like a simple enough concept, but its findings could have a huge impact, from preventing droughts and the spread of disease, to predicting the effects of climate change.,399491Mon, 19 Jan 2015 10:22:41 +1000Smartphone App Helps Visually Impaired Avoid Low-Hanging ObstaclesA smartphone app may provide a new answer to an old problem for the visually impaired: tree branches at head height.,399490Mon, 19 Jan 2015 10:22:38 +1000NASA is About To Blast Some Rockets Through Alaska's Northern LightsThe lights of the <a href="">aurora borealis</a> are often described as &#8220;dancing,&#8221; since they fluctuate in shape and brightness. Inside, the charged particles that generate the aurora dance too, and scientists are still trying to figure out exactly how that movement is structured.,399488Mon, 19 Jan 2015 10:22:32 +1000Thor vs. The Spider"I was cleaning up in the garage and I felt it first and I picked up a bag, and I felt this big furry thing and felt the bite,&#8221; <a href="">he says</a>. &#8220;It bled (a lot), like it took a chunk out of my finger. It was a monster of a thing. Then I screamed a bit and said a few words we can't say on TV.",399487Mon, 19 Jan 2015 10:22:20 +1000In a Fight Between a Pilot and his Aircraft, Sometimes the Rocket Plane WinsWhen Mike Adams called from the X-15 that he was in a spin, no one listening on the ground could believe it. The rocket-powered airplane was traveling around four times the speed of sound in the thin upper atmosphere. How could it be spinning? His wife and mother, both at Edwards that day, were quietly led out of the viewing area adjacent to the control room while ground crews tried to figure out what was going on. Less than a minute Adams' first mention of a spin, telemetry from the aircraft ceased. Another minute later chase planes saw dust kicked up in the desert below. On November 15, 1967, Adams became the X-15's first and only victim.,399485Mon, 19 Jan 2015 10:22:12 +1000Rapere Is An Anti-Drone InterceptorFor every brand new quadcopter suddenly flying through the neighborhood, there is sure to be an angry neighbor, eager to remove the buzzing pest from the sky. Rapere is a concept that should delight every grinch next door: an anti-drone drone that, at the push of a button, flies away to attack any nearby flying craft.,399483Mon, 19 Jan 2015 10:22:01 +1000First Photos Of SpaceX's Failed Rocket Landing Early 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 platform in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. And then it exploded.,399484Mon, 19 Jan 2015 10:22:00 +1000Dark Snow Doesn't Bode Well For North AmericaThe 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&#8212;a particle emitted by burning wood, diesel and coal&#8212;it heats up faster, just like when you go outside in the sun wearing black,399486Mon, 19 Jan 2015 10:22:00 +1000Long Lost Beagle-2 Mars Lander Spotted By NASA 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 by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, a spacecraft that has been in Martian orbit since 2006.,399489Mon, 19 Jan 2015 10:22:00 +1000We Flew Two Top Secret Stealth Drones. You Can TooAs research for our January 2015 feature story about stealth new aircraft, we created virtual models of the coolest new drones in the sky&#8212;the Northrop Grumman RQ-180 and the BAE Systems Taranis. Both are top-secret projects. In fact, the RQ-180 is so &#8220;black-world&#8221; that it's only been spotted once or twice, flying high over the U.S. Air Force's remote Area 51 in Nevada. Nonetheless, leaked information exists on both projects, and in the right hands it can speak volumes about their capabilities.,399447Fri, 16 Jan 2015 08:25:23 +1000Air Force Wants Research Projects On Aerial CyberwarDespite headlines <a href="">claiming otherwise</a>, cyberwar is not epitomized by stealing Twitter passwords or <a href="">publishing confidential emails</a>. For militaries fighting wars in the future, the real cyber danger will be hostile access to secure networks, jammed signals, and fooled sensors on war machines manned and unmanned. To better understand how these attacks will play out, the Air Force Research Laboratory is soliciting papers for <a href=";mode=form&amp;id=26d230bee43f1e6832b812f8115ed56b&amp;tab=core&amp;_cview=0&amp;cmpid=pscau">creating and then overcoming a virtual hostile sky</a>.,399446Fri, 16 Jan 2015 08:25:21 +1000Walk Under The Aurora On Google Maps To stand underneath the glowing, otherworldly dance of the aurora is an experience on our bucket list. But if you (like us) haven't had the chance to travel to the far reaches of the Earth to see the northern lights, Google Maps is here to help.,399445Fri, 16 Jan 2015 08:25:19 +1000