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Games

Cliff Bleszinski's Boss Key Productions Unveils LawBreakers Game Trailer 16

MojoKid writes: Boss Key Productions has posted its first trailer of LawBreakers (formerly Project Bluestreak), a futuristic game title that's set to release on multiple platforms in 2016. The trailer shows off some of the characters and classes that you'll have access to on both sides of the law — yes, you'll have to decide whether you're fighting for the law or the lawbreakers. The game's setting is Earth, though not as you know it now. This is a future version of Earth where gravity is busted. The government, in its infinite wisdom, screwed up some testing on the moon and managed to split its surface, an event that came to be known as "The Shattering." Gears of War creator Cliff Bleszinski is one of the co-founders of Boss Key Productions, the other of which is Arjan Brussee, the main coder behind Jazz Jackrabbit games and a co-founder Guerrilla Games.
Science

How Close Are We, Really, To Nuclear Fusion? 297

StartsWithABang writes: The ultimate dream when it comes to clean, green, safe, abundant energy is nuclear fusion. The same process that powers the core of the Sun could also power everything on Earth millions of times over, if only we could figure out how to reach that breakeven point. Right now, we have three different candidates for doing so: inertial confinement, magnetic confinement, and magnetized target fusion. Recent advances have all three looking promising in various ways, making one wonder why we don't spend more resources towards achieving the holy grail of energy.
Earth

Ocean Cleanup Project Completes Great Pacific Garbage Patch Research Expedition 71

hypnosec writes: The reconnaissance mission of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, dubbed the Mega Expedition by Ocean Clean, has been concluded. The large-scale cleanup of the area is set to begin in 2020. The primary goal of the Mega Expedition was to accurately determine how much plastic is floating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This was the first time large pieces of plastic, such as ghost nets and Japanese tsunami debris, have been quantified. “I’ve studied plastic in all the world’s oceans, but never seen any area as polluted as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” said Dr. Julia Reisser, Lead Oceanographer at The Ocean Cleanup. “With every trawl we completed, thousands of miles from land, we just found lots and lots of plastic.”
Canada

Canadian Nuclear Accident Study Puts Risks Into Perspective 163

An anonymous reader writes: A Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) study has concluded that there would be no detectable increase in cancer risk for most of the population from radiation released in a hypothetical severe nuclear accident. The CNSC's study is the result of a collaborative effort of research and analysis undertaken to address concerns raised during public hearings on the environmental assessment for the refurbishment of Ontario Power Generation's (OPG's) Darlington nuclear power plant in 2012. The draft study was released for public consultation in June 2014. Feedback from the Commission itself and comments from over 500 submissions from the public, government and other organizations have been incorporated in the final version. The study involved identifying and modelling a large atmospheric release of radionuclides from a hypothetical severe nuclear accident at the four-unit Darlington plant
Moon

You Can Now Be "Buried" On the Moon 72

Dave Knott writes: Space burials are longer the stuff of science fiction (and wealthy science fiction TV show creators.) The cremated remains of more than 450 people have been shot into orbit. Yet, despite the promise of space being a unique "resting place," almost every tiny vial of remains ever sent there has come back down to Earth or burned up upon re-entry. This wouldn't have happened had the ashes landed on Earth's moon — a fact that hasn't been lost on the companies pioneering this futuristic funeral technology. The San Francisco-based company Elysium Space officially launched its 'lunar memorial' service earlier this month, and will soon be sending the remains of a U.S. Army Infantry Soldier's mother upwards as part of its first ever moon burial.

The company's website further explains how the lunar burials will work: "You receive a kit containing a custom ash capsule to collect a cremated remains sample. After we receive the ash capsule back from you, we place your capsule in the Elysium memorial spacecraft. The latter is eventually integrated to the Astrobotic lander during the designated integration event. From here, the lander is integrated onto the launch vehicle. On launch day, the remains are carried to the moon where the lander will be deployed to its dedicated location, preserving our memorial spacecraft for eternity." Because Elysium can only send a small portion of cremated remains to the moon (less than a gram), participants aren't actually paying to have their loved ones literally buried on the moon. However, this has not deterred the company from launching the service, charging $11,950 per "burial".
Earth

The Nations That Will Be Hardest Hit By Water Shortages By 2040 198

merbs writes: Water access is going to be one of the most pressing issues of the 21st century. As climate change dries out the already dry areas and makes the wet ones wetter, we're poised to see some radical civilizational shifts. For one, a number of densely populated areas will come under serious water stress—which analysts fear will lead to strife, thirst, and even violent conflict. With that in mind, the World Resource Institute has assembled a new report projecting which nations are most likely to be hardest hit by water stress in coming decades—nations like Bahrain, Israel, Palestine, and Spain lead the pack.
Earth

Group Seeks Test For Geoengineering Tool To Fight Climate Change 127

An anonymous reader writes: A group of retired engineers and scientists has been meeting for several years to develop techniques to fight climate change. They've now reached the point where they want to actively test a machine that shoots water droplets into the sky in order to supplement existing clouds and increase the planet's albedo. The group is not aiming for full deployment — in fact, it's not even unanimous in support for prevailing theories in climate science. But they all agree that it's important to learn about such technologies before the situation becomes a crisis. "We need to understand whether this approach is even possible and what the risks are, in the event that we find ourselves looking for ways to extend time and mitigate warming damage."

If we're eventually forced to deploy large-scale geoengineering projects to combat climate change, it's not a good idea to grab whatever technology is cheapest or most readily available without knowing how well it works. The group is aware of the ethical concerns surrounding such research, but its director notes, "The fact is humanity is already engaged in unplanned climate engineering. We're doing it through coal plant and shipping emissions every day without understanding it very well."
Earth

In Germany, a Message-in-a-Bottle Found 108 Years After Its Release 57

schwit1 writes with a report that an early 20th century experiment has generated a belated data point. One of many floating bottles released 108 years ago to study currents was recently found by a German couple; it washed up on a beach in Amrum, Germany. From The Independent: When the couple unfurled the note inside, they found a message in English, German and Dutch. It asked the finder to fill in some information on where and when they had found the bottle, before returning it to the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth. It said whoever did so would be rewarded with one shilling. Communications director of the Marine Biological Association, Guy Baker, told The Daily Telegraph: "It was quite a stir when we opened that envelope, as you can imagine." Once at the association, staff recognised the bottle was one of 1,020 released into the North Sea between 1904 and 1906 as part of a project to test the strength of currents. Mr Baker told the paper: "It was a time when they were inventing ways to investigate what currents and fish did. Many of the bottles were found by fishermen trawling with deep sea nets. Others washed up on the shore, and some were never recovered. Most of the bottles were found within a relatively short time. We're talking months rather than decades."
Space

John S. Lewis On the Space Commodities Market 61

John S. Lewis -- Deep Space Industries' chief scientist, author, and University of Arizona professor -- speaks in an interview with Air & Space magazine about the practicalities and possibilities of deep-space mining, a topic on which he is unapologetically bullish. He points out, though, that some of the artist's-conception version of space mining skips over some of the economic realities of getting back to Earth metals that are scarce here. From the interview: But—and here’s the big conditional—if we develop an industrial capability in space such that we’re processing large amounts of metals to make solar-powered satellites, for example, then as a byproduct, we would have very substantial quantities of platinum-group metals, which are extremely valuable. So if you have a market for the iron and the nickel in space, that would liberate the precious metals to be brought back to Earth. So the scheme is not based on the idea of retrieving platinum-group metals—that is simply gravy."
Space

JAXA Prepares To Try Making Whiskey In Space 67

schwit1 writes: An experiment to test how whiskey ages in weightlessness is about to begin on ISS: "H-II Transfer Vehicle No. 5, commonly known as "Kounotori5" or HTV5, was launched on Wednesday from JAXA's Tanegashima Space Center carrying alcohol beverages produced by Suntory to the Japanese Experiment Module aboard the International Space Station, where experiments on the "development of mellowness" will be conducted for a period of about one year in Group 1 and for two or more years (undecided) in Group 2." Don't worry, the astronauts on ISS won't be getting drunk. After the test period is complete the samples will then returned to Earth, untasted, where they will then be compared with control samples.
Mars

The Real NASA Technologies In 'The Martian' 60

An anonymous reader writes: On October 2, movie audiences will get to see Ridley Scott's adaptation of Andy Weir's brilliant sci-fi novel The Martian, about a near-future astronaut who gets left for dead on the planet Mars. (Official trailer.) Both book and film are rooted in actual science, and NASA has now posted a list of technologies featured in the movie that either already exist, or are in development. For example, the Mars rover: "On Earth today, NASA is working to prepare for every encounter with the Multi-Mission Space Exploration Vehicle (MMSEV). The MMSEV has been used in NASA's analog mission projects to help solve problems that the agency is aware of and to reveal some that may be hidden. The technologies are developed to be versatile enough to support missions to an asteroid, Mars, its moons and other missions in the future." They also show off their efforts to develop water reclamation, gardens in space, and oxygen recovery.
Transportation

The Boeing 747 Is Heading For Retirement 345

schwit1 writes: After 45 years of service, Boeing's 747, the world's first jumbo jet, is finally facing retirement as airlines consider more modern planes for their fleets. The article gives a brief but detailed outline of the 747's history, and why passengers and pilots still love it. From the article: "The 747 was America at its proud and uncontaminated best. 'There's no substitute for cubic inches,' American race drivers used to say and the 747 expresses that truth in the air. There is still residual rivalry with the upstart European Airbus. Some Americans, referring to untested new technologies, call it Scarebus. There's an old saying: 'If it ain't Boeing, I ain't going.' A comparison to the European Concorde is illuminating. The supersonic Anglo-French plane was an elite project created for elite passengers to travel in near space with the curvature of the Earth on one hand and a glass of first growth claret on the other. The 747 was mass-market, proletarianising the jet set. It was Coke, not grand cru and it was designed by a man named Joe. Thus, the 747's active life was about twice that of Concorde."
Space

Tiny Pebbles Built the Gas Giant Behemoths 32

astroengine writes: Scientists have long puzzled over how gas planets like Jupiter and Saturn got to be so big. Current theories suggest the cores of these behemoths are comprised of mini-planets, some 62- to 620 miles in diameter, which collided and gradually merged together over time. But computer simulations show this process is more likely to produce hundreds of Earth-sized worlds. Instead, a new study suggests "slow pebble accretion" is a more likely process.
Earth

New Tool Allows Scientists To Annotate Media Coverage of Climate Change 185

Layzej writes: Have you ever been skeptical of a climate change story presented by a major media outlet? A new tool holds journalists to account for the veracity of their stories. "Using the Climate Feedback tool, scientists have started to diligently add detailed annotations to online content and have those notes appear alongside the story as it originally appeared. If you're the writer, then it's a bit like getting your homework handed back to you with the margins littered with corrections and red pen. Or smiley faces and gold stars if you've been good." The project has already prompted The Telegraph to publish major corrections to their story that suggested the Earth is headed for a "'mini ice age' within 15 years." The article has been modified in such a way that there is no more statement supporting the original message of an "imminent mini ice age."
ISS

Enormous Red Sprites Seen From Space 30

astroengine writes: A gorgeous photo, captured from the International Space Station on the night of Aug. 10, 2015, shows an orbital view of thunderstorms over the city lights of southern Mexico as a recumbent Orion rises over Earth's limb. But wait, there's more: along the right edge of the picture a cluster of bright red and purple streamers can be seen rising above a blue-white flash of lightning: it's an enormous red sprite caught on camera! First photographed in 1989, red sprites are very brief flashes of optical activity that are associated with powerful lightning. So-called because of their elusive nature, sprites typically appear as branching red tendrils reaching up above the region of an exceptionally strong lightning flash. These electrical discharges can extend as high as 55 miles (90 kilometers) into the atmosphere, with the brightest region usually around altitudes of 40–45 miles (65–75 km). Sprites don't last very long — 3–10 milliseconds at most — and so to catch one (technically here it's a cluster of them) on camera is a real feat... or, in this case, a great surprise!
China

Breathing Beijing's Air Is the Equivalent of Smoking Almost 40 Cigarettes a Day 182

iONiUM writes: The Economist has a story about how bad the air quality is in Beijing. Due to public outcry the Chinese government has created almost 1,000 air quality monitoring stations, and the findings aren't good. They report: "Pollution is sky-high everywhere in China. Some 83% of Chinese are exposed to air that, in America, would be deemed by the Environmental Protection Agency either to be unhealthy or unhealthy for sensitive groups. Almost half the population of China experiences levels of PM2.5 that are above America's highest threshold. That is even worse than the satellite data had suggested. Berkeley Earth's scientific director, Richard Muller, says breathing Beijing's air is the equivalent of smoking almost 40 cigarettes a day and calculates that air pollution causes 1.6m deaths a year in China, or 17% of the total. A previous estimate, based on a study of pollution in the Huai river basin (which lies between the Yellow and Yangzi rivers), put the toll at 1.2m deaths a year—still high."
Power

Interviews: Ask Engineer and L5 Society Cofounder Keith Henson a Question 111

Keith Henson is an electrical engineer and writer on space engineering, space law, cryonics, and evolutionary psychology. He co-founded the L5 society in 1975, which sought to promote space colonization. In addition to being an outspoken critic and target of the Church of Scientology, Keith has recently been working on the design of an orbiting power satellite (video here). The proposed satellite would collect solar energy, send it to Earth via microwaves, and Henson has a plan on how to launch it cheaply. Keith has agreed to give us some of his time and answer any questions you might have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
Star Wars Prequels

Death Star Science: The Physics Of Destroying An Earth-Sized Planet 173

StartsWithABang writes: The ability to destroy an Alderaan-like (or, ahem, Earth-like) planet has long been the dream of slashdotters everywhere. But generating the power necessary to unbind a planet — some 2.24 x 10^32 Joules — is simply impossible on board an object only the size of a small moon. But if, instead, you could house a 1-2 trillion ton asteroid (about 5-7 km across) made of antimatter and deliver it to the planet's core, Einstein's E=mc^2 ensures that the planet will be destroyed in seconds.
Math

How Weather Modeling Gets Better 43

Dr_Ish writes: Bob Henson over at Weather Underground has posted a fascinating discussion of the recent improvements made to the major weather models that are used to forecast hurricanes and the like. The post also included interesting links that explain more about the models. Quoting: "The latest version of the ECMWF model, introduced in May, has significant changes to model physics and the ways in which observations are brought into and used within the model. The overall improvements include better portrayal of clouds and precipitation, including a more accurate depiction of intense rainfall. The main effect of the model upgrade for tropical cyclones is slightly lower central pressure. During the first 3 days of a forecast, the ECMWF has tended to have a slight weak bias on tropical cyclones; the new version is closer to the mark."