We should go visit it! I just got a new General Products hull for my spaceship and I'm itching to try it out!
crudmonkey writes "Researchers have discovered a biological shocker: female boa constrictors are capable of giving birth asexually. But the surprise doesn't end there. The study in Biology Letters found that boa babies produced through this asexual reproduction — also known as parthenogenesis — sport a chromosomal oddity that researchers thought was impossible in reptiles. While researchers admit that the female in the study may have been a genetic freak, they say the findings should press researchers to re-think reptile reproduction. Virgin birth among reptiles, especially primitive ones like boas, they argue may be far commoner than ever expected."
Algorithmnast writes "The Economist has a short article on using big, slow-moving airships to move large objects without the need to dismantle them. The company mentioned, Skylifter, refers to the lifting ship as an 'aerial crane,' not a Thor weapon. It could easily help move research labs to new parts of the Antarctic, or allow a Solar Tower to be inserted into an area that's difficult to drive to, such as a mesa in New Mexico."
On Tuesday we discussed a scathing critique of Ray Kurzweil's understanding of the brain written by PZ Myers. Reader Amara notes that Kurzweil has now responded on his blog. Quoting: "Myers, who apparently based his second-hand comments on erroneous press reports (he wasn't at my talk), [claims] that my thesis is that we will reverse-engineer the brain from the genome. This is not at all what I said in my presentation to the Singularity Summit. I explicitly said that our quest to understand the principles of operation of the brain is based on many types of studies — from detailed molecular studies of individual neurons, to scans of neural connection patterns, to studies of the function of neural clusters, and many other approaches. I did not present studying the genome as even part of the strategy for reverse-engineering the brain."
Humunculus writes "Of more worldly issues, NASA's latest multimillion-dollar stratosphere-bound balloon launch has gone horribly wrong and crashed into a car, turning it over and narrowly missing two elderly people who were observing the launch. The payload fared worse, reportedly being smashed into a 'thousand pieces.'"
cremeglace writes "No one had seen a laser reflector that Soviet scientists had left on the moon almost 40 years ago, despite years of searching. Turns out searchers had been looking kilometers in the wrong direction. On 22 April, a team of physicists finally saw an incredibly faint flash from the reflector, which was ferried across the lunar surface by the Lunokhod 1 rover. The find comes thanks to NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which last month imaged a large area where the rover was reported to have been left. Then the researchers, led by Tom Murphy of the University of California, San Diego, could search one football-field-size area at a time until they got a reflection."
The manned spaceflight program has always been the most popular element of NASA, both to the general public and to Congress. If the planned cuts to the manned program are successfully enacted, I'm not sure the how long the rest of this stuff will survive in the current bugetary climate. Note that I'm not necessarily saying the Constellation program is on the right track, but there is an element of the old proverb about a rising tide lifting all the boats that I think applies here.
longacre writes "An amateur video of the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger explosion has been made public for the first time. The Florida man who filmed it from his front yard on his new Betamax camcorder turned the tape over to an educational organization a week before he died this past December. The Space Exploration Archive has since published the video into the public domain in time for the 24th anniversary of the catastrophe. Despite being shot from about 70 miles from Cape Canaveral, the shuttle and the explosion can be seen quite clearly. It is unclear why he never shared the footage with NASA or the media. NASA officials say they were not aware of the video, but are interested in examining it now that it has been made available."
astroengine writes "Astronomers have spotted something rather odd in the asteroid belt. It looks like a comet, but it's got a circular orbit, similar to an asteroid. Whether it's an asteroid or a comet, it has a long, comet-like tail, suggesting something is being vented into space. Some experts think it could be a very rare comet/asteroid hybrid being heated by the sun, but there's an even more exciting possibility: It could be the first ever observation of two asteroids colliding in the asteroid belt."
Given how well the two MER rovers are working, why not just build a couple more of them and send them to different locations on Mars? Seems like right now it would be better to explore more areas and get a better overall view of the martian geology. Better to have a limited (from a science standpoint) presence on Mars than put all your eggs in a $2B basket, IMHO.