Trust the World's Fastest VPN with Your Internet Security & Freedom - A Lifetime Subscription of PureVPN at 88% off. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. ×

SpaceX's Next Launch Carries Colonies Of A Drug-Resistant Superbug ( 45

An anonymous reader quotes Business Insider: SpaceX is preparing to launch a lethal, antibiotic-resistant superbug into live its days in the microgravity environment of the International Space Station. The idea is not to weaponize space with MRSA -- a bacterium that kills more Americans every year than HIV/AIDS, Parkinson's disease, emphysema, and homicide combined -- but to send its mutation rates into hyperdrive, allowing scientists to see the pathogen's next moves well before they appear on Earth. The NASA-funded study will see SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launch colonies of MRSA into space, to be cultivated in the US National Laboratory on the International Space Station.

"We will leverage the microgravity environment on the ISS to accelerate the Precision Medicine revolution here on Earth," lead researcher Anita Goel, CEO of biotech company Nanobiosym, told Yahoo News... "Our ability to anticipate drug-resistant mutations with Gene-RADAR will lead to next generation antibiotics that are more precisely tailored to stop the spread of the world's most dangerous pathogens," says Goel.

That launch was scheduled for today, but postponed it to "take a closer look at positioning of the second stage engine nozzle." Two more externally-mounted payloads will conduct other experiments, with one monitoring lightning strikes on earth and the other measuring chemicals in the earth's atmosphere. In addition, there's also 21 science experiments that were submitted by high school students

Meanwhile, Slashdot reader tomhath brings news that researchers have discovered the red berries of a U.S. weed can help fight superbugs. The researchers found "extracts from the Brazilian peppertree, which traditional healers in the Amazon have used for hundreds of years to treat skin and soft-tissue infections, have the power to stop methicillin-resistant MRSA infections in mice." One of the researchers said the extract "weakens the bacteria so the mouse's own defenses work better."

Juno Jupiter Probe Won't Move Into Shorter Orbit After All ( 51

NASA announced today that their Juno spacecraft will not move into a closer orbit around Jupiter as originally planned. "Juno slipped into a highly elliptical, 53-Earth-day-long orbit around Jupiter when it arrived at the giant planet on July 4, 2016," reports From their report: The probe was supposed to perform an engine burn in October to reduce its orbital period to 14 days, but an issue with two helium valves postponed that maneuver. The engine burn has now been canceled, meaning Juno will stay where it is through the end of its mission. "During a thorough review, we looked at multiple scenarios that would place Juno in a shorter-period orbit, but there was concern that another main engine burn could result in a less-than-desirable orbit," Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, said in a statement. "The bottom line is, a burn represented a risk to completion of Juno's science objectives." But Juno should still be able to accomplish its mission goals in the longer orbit, NASA officials said. In fact, the 53-day path will allow the probe to perform some "bonus science" in the outer regions of Jupiter's magnetosphere, they added.

Woolly Mammoth On Verge of Resurrection, Scientists Reveal ( 160

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The woolly mammoth vanished from the Earth 4,000 years ago, but now scientists say they are on the brink of resurrecting the ancient beast in a revised form, through an ambitious feat of genetic engineering. Speaking ahead of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Boston this week, the scientist leading the "de-extinction" effort said the Harvard team is just two years away from creating a hybrid embryo, in which mammoth traits would be programmed into an Asian elephant. "Our aim is to produce a hybrid elephant-mammoth embryo," said Prof George Church. "Actually, it would be more like an elephant with a number of mammoth traits. We're not there yet, but it could happen in a couple of years." The creature, sometimes referred to as a "mammophant," would be partly elephant, but with features such as small ears, subcutaneous fat, long shaggy hair and cold-adapted blood. The mammoth genes for these traits are spliced into the elephant DNA using the powerful gene-editing tool, Crispr. Until now, the team have stopped at the cell stage, but are now moving towards creating embryos -- although, they said that it would be many years before any serious attempt at producing a living creature.

Astronomers Discover 60 New Planets Including 'Super Earth' ( 38

schwit1 quotes a report from New York Post: An international team of astronomers has found 60 new planets orbiting stars close to Earth's solar system, including a rocky "super Earth." The experts also found evidence of an additional 54 planets, bringing the potential discovery of new worlds to 114. One planet in particular, Gliese 411b, has been generating plenty of attention. Described as a "hot super Earth with a rocky surface," Gliese 411b is located in the fourth-nearest star system to the Sun, making it the third-nearest planetary system to the Sun, according to the U.K.'s University of Hertfordshire, which participated in the research. Gliese 411b (also known as GJ 411b or Lalande 21185) orbits the star Gliese 411 (or GJ 411). Despite the "super Earth" label, Dr. Mikko Tuomi from University of Hertfordshire's Centre for Astrophysics told Fox News that Gliese 411b is too hot for life to exist on its surface. The 60 new planets are found orbiting stars that are mostly some 20 to 300 light years away, according to Tuomi. The discoveries are based on observations taken over 20 years by U.S. astronomers using the Keck-I telescope in Hawaii as part of the Lick-Carnegie Exoplanet Survey. During the course of the research, scientists obtained almost 61,000 observations of 1,600 stars, which are now available to the public.

Lost Winston Churchill Essay Reveals His Thoughts On Alien Life ( 183

"A newly discovered essay by Winston Churchill shows that the British statesman gave a lot of thought to the existential question that has inspired years of scientific research and blockbuster movies: are we alone in the University?" reports The Verge. "The essay was drafted in the 1930s, but unearthed in a museum in Missouri last year." Astrophysicist Mario Livio was the first scientist to analyze the article and has published his comments in the journal Nature. The Verge reports: Livio was "stunned" when he first saw the unpublished, 11-page essay on the existence of alien life, he tells The Verge. The astrophysicist was visiting Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, for a talk last year, when he was approached by Timothy Riley, the director of Fulton's US National Churchill Museum. Riley showed him the essay, titled "Are We Alone in the Universe?" In the essay, Churchill reasons that we can't possibly be alone in the Universe -- and that many other Suns will likely have many other planets that could harbor life. Because of how enormously distant these extrasolar planets are, we may never know if they "house living creatures, or even plants," Churchill concludes. He wrote this decades before exoplanets were discovered in the 1990s; hundreds have since been detected. What's impressive about the essay is the way Churchill approaches the existential and scientific question of whether life exists on other planets, Livio says. Churchill's reasoning mirrors extremely well the way scientists think about this problem today. The British leader also talks about several theories that still guide the search for alien life, Livio says. For example, he notes that water is the key ingredient for life on Earth, and so finding water on other planets could mean finding life there. Churchill also notes that life can only survive in regions "between a few degrees of frost and the boiling point of water" -- what today we call the habitable zone, the region around a star that is neither too hot or too cold, so that liquid water may exist on the planet's surface.

Iron Age Potters Accidentally Recorded the Strength of Earth's Magnetic Field ( 106

Solandri writes: We've only been able to measure the Earth's magnetic field strength for about two centuries. During this time, there has been a gradual decline in the field strength. In recent years, the rate of decline seems to be accelerating, leading to some speculation that the Earth may be losing its magnetic field -- a catastrophic possibility since the magnetic field is what protects life on Earth from dangerous solar radiation. Ferromagnetic particles in rocks provide a long-term history which tells us the poles have flipped numerous times. But uncertainties in dating the rocks prevents their use in understanding decade-scale magnetic field fluctuations.

Now a group of archeologists and geophysicists have come up with a novel way to produce decade-scale temporal measurements of the Earth's magnetic field strength from before the invention of the magnetometer. When iron-age potters fired their pottery in a kiln to harden it, it loosened tiny ferromagnetic particles in the clay. As the pottery cooled and these particles hardened, it captured a snapshot of the Earth's magnetic field. Crucially, the governments of that time required pottery used to collect taxed goods (e.g. a portion of olive oil sold) to be stamped with a royal seal. These seals changed over time as new kings ascended, or governments were completely replaced after invasion. Thus by cross-referencing the magnetic particles in the pottery with the seals, researchers were able to piece together a history of the Earth's magnetic field strength spanning from the 8th century BCE to the 2nd century BCE. Their findings show that large fluctuations in the strength of the magnetic field over a span of decades are normal.
The study has been published in the journal PNAS.

ISRO Makes History, Launches 104 Satellites With Single Rocket ( 157

neo12 writes: Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) made history by launching 104 satellites in a single launch. The lift-off of PSLVC 37 at 9.28 am from Sriharikota was a perfect one. In 28 minutes, all 104 satellites were successfully placed into the Earth's orbit. 101 of the 104 satellites belong to six foreign countries, including 96 from the U.S. and one each from Israel, the UAE, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Kazakhstan. According to Times of India, "Russian Space Agency held a record of launching 37 satellites in one go during its mission in June 2014. India previously launched 23 satellites in a single mission in June 2015."

Scientists Propose Plan To Re-Freeze the Arctic ( 400

Kristine Lofgren writes: In case you've been under a rock for the past 20 years, the Arctic is melting super fast. Certain *ahem* governments are dragging their feet doing anything about it, which means the planet could be in for a spectacular meltdown within the next 20 years. But a clever bunch of scientists have hatched a plan to re-freeze the Arctic using wind-powered pumps that will bring water to the surface, allowing it to freeze. This new layer of ice could last well into the summer, which is vital, because scientists think summer Arctic ice could be gone by 2030 -- and that causes a whole chain of terrible events that will only make our climate change problem much, much worse. The plan has a $500 billion price tag, but that's pocket change compared to the cost of dealing with an ice-free Arctic. The study has been published in The American Geophysical Union's journal Earth's Future. You can read more about the study via The Guardian.

Banned Chemicals From 1970's Persist In Deepest Reaches of the Pacific Ocean, Study Shows ( 74

walterbyrd quotes a report from BBC: Scientists were surprised by the relatively high concentrations of pollutants like PCBs and PBDEs in deep sea ecosystems. Used widely during much of the 20th Century, these chemicals were later found to be toxic and to build up in the environment. The results are published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution. The team led by Dr Alan Jamieson at the University of Newcastle sampled levels of pollutants in the fatty tissue of amphipods (a type of crustacean) from deep below the Pacific Ocean surface. The pollutants found in the amphipods included polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which were commonly used as electrical insulators and flame retardants. PCB production was banned by the U.S. in 1979 and by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, a UN treaty signed in 2001. From the 1930s to when PCBs were banned in the 1970s, the total global production of these chemicals is estimated to be in the region of 1.3 million tons. Released into the environment through industrial accidents and discharges from landfills, these pollutants are resistant to being broken down naturally, and so persist in the environment. The authors of the study say that the deep ocean can become a "sink" or repository for pollutants. They argue that the chemicals accumulate through the food chain so that when they reach the deep ocean, concentrations are many times higher than in surface waters.

188,000 Evacuated As California's Massive Oroville Dam Threatens Catastrophic Floods ( 455

Mr D from 63 quotes a report from The Washington Post: About 188,000 residents near Oroville, Calif., were ordered to evacuate Sunday after a hole in an emergency spillway in the Oroville Dam threatened to flood the surrounding area. Thousands clogged highways leading out of the area headed south, north and west, and arteries major and minor remained jammed as midnight approached on the West Coast -- though by early Monday, Lake Oroville's water level had dropped to a point at which water was no longer spilling over. The lake level reached its peak of 902.59 feet at about 3 a.m. Sunday and dropped to 898 feet by 4 a.m. Monday, according to the Sacramento Bee. Water flows over the emergency spillway at 901 feet. "The drop in the lake level was early evidence that the Department of Water Resources' desperate attempt to prevent a catastrophic failure of the dam's emergency spillway appeared to be paying dividends," the Bee reported Monday. Officials doubled the flow of water out of the nearly mile-long primary spillway to 100,000 cubic feet per second. The normal flow is about half as much, but increased flows are common at this time of year, during peak rain season, officials said. But water officials warned that damaged infrastructure could create further dangers as storms approach in the week ahead, and it remained unclear when residents might be able to return to their homes.

223 Stranded Whales Rescue Themselves ( 74

More than 650 whales beached themselves in New Zealand, and more than 350 of them died. But now an anonymous reader shares NPR's report about a surprising result for the second group of whales. When volunteer rescuers left the beach for the night Saturday, hundreds of survivors from the second stranding remained ashore. Then something curious happened: When the people returned Sunday morning, almost all the surviving whales were gone. All but 17 had left the beach and returned to the waters of Golden Bay overnight.

"We had 240 whales strand yesterday in the afternoon and we were fearful we were going to end up with 240 dead whales this morning," Herb Christophers, a spokesman for New Zealand's Department of Conservation, told Reuters. "But they self-rescued, in other words the tide came in and they were able to float off and swim out to sea."


Space Junk-Fighting Cable Fails To Deploy ( 55

New Scientist reports: It's a rubbish start for the world's first space clean-up experiment. A cable designed to drag space junk out of orbit has failed to deploy from a Japanese spacecraft... A 700-metre-long metal cable was fitted to an unmanned spacecraft called Kounotori 6, which was on its way back to Earth after delivering supplies to the International Space Station. The cable was meant to unfurl from the spacecraft, at which point an electric current would pass along its length. The idea was that the current would interact with the Earth's magnetic field, creating a drag that pulled the spacecraft out of orbit. The spacecraft would then tumble into our atmosphere and become incinerated... However, Kounotori 6 was unable to release the cable to test its junk-removing potential, and JAXA could not fix the glitch before the spacecraft returned to Earth's atmosphere this morning... "Releasing a cable may seem simple, but nothing in space is simple," says Sean Tuttle at the University of New South Wales in Australia... The test's failure should be seen as a setback rather than a nail in the coffin for junk-removing cables, Tuttle says.
rickyslashdot writes: Because of the simplicity of this system, it is bound to be tested again -- hopefully sooner than later... This process is inherently safer than using rocket engines (to be attached to the junk), and is much less of a 'mass-to-orbit' cost, since it only requires a grappling system, and a spool of wire/cable. Hopefully, there will be a follow-up / re-try in the near future for this orbital debris clean-up process.

Four of Iceland's Main Volcanoes Are All Preparing For Eruption ( 136

Vulcanologists always watch Iceland carefully -- it's the one exposed place on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, with 130 different volcanoes -- and something big may be brewing. Applehu Akbar writes: Now that four of Iceland's largest volcanoes are showing signs of impending eruption, the world may be in for another summer of ash. Katla, Hecla, Bárðarbunga and Grímsvötn have all had major activity in the past, including vast floods from melting glaciers, enough ash to ground aircraft over all of Europe, volumes of sulfur that have induced global nuclear winter for a decade at a time, and clouds of poisonous fluoride gas. When the mountains of Iceland speak, the whole world listens.
Eruptions are already overdue for both Hekla and Katla -- Hekla's magma chamber has filled up, and Katla last erupted in 1918. "The Katla eruption would lead to the melting of the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, resulting in a glacial flood," reports Tech Times, "likely to hit areas where large crowds are found at any given point of time, especially the black sand beaches of Sólheimasandur and the village of Vik in Southern Iceland."

Hundreds of Stonehenge-Like Monuments Found In The Amazon Rainforest ( 147

turkeydance quotes The Telegraph: Hundreds of ancient earthworks resembling those at Stonehenge were built in the Amazon rainforest, scientists have discovered after flying drones over the area. The findings prove for the first time that prehistoric settlers in Brazil cleared large wooded areas to create huge enclosures meaning that the 'pristine' rainforest celebrated by ecologists is actually relatively new.
The researchers believe the monuments appeared roughly 2,000 years ago -- so after Stonehenge (by about 2,500 years). "It is thought they were used only sporadically," reports the BBC, "possibly as ritual gathering places similar to the Maya pyramids of Central America, or Britain's own Stonehenge."

A Guide To Friday's Comet-Eclipse-Full-Moon Triple Feature ( 28

SonicSpike quotes a report from CNET: Even if you aren't a space nerd whose idea of a good time is craning your neck to stare into the vast nothingness of space on a frigid evening, this Friday the heavens will put on a show worth heading outdoors for. A penumbral lunar eclipse, a full "snow moon" and a comet will be spicing up the night sky February 10 in a rare convergence of such celestial happenings. We'll start with our nearest neighbor. February brings the full moon known as the "snow moon" because this month in North America tends to see a lot of the white fluffy stuff. This snow moon will be special though because, well... we'll all get in its way in a sense when the penumbral lunar eclipse takes place Friday. The eclipse will be at least partly visible from most but not all places on Earth (sorry Australia and Japan). The moment of greatest eclipse is at 4:43 p.m. PT and the eclipse will then dissipate until it completes a little over two hours later, according to the U.S. Naval Observatory. Next up, Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova has actually been visible with binoculars and telescopes for several weeks already, but it will be at its closest approach to Earth on the morning of February 11 as it passes by at a distance of 7.4 million miles (11.9 million kilometers) or 30 times further away than the moon.

Maybe It's Time For Jack Dorsey To Pick a Company ( 37

To Jack Dorsey, running two high-profile companies -- Twitter and Square -- at the same time doesn't seem like a problem. In an earlier interview with The New York Times, he said, "I can split my time and be present at both companies every single day." But despite how confidently Dorsey seems about his leadership roles at both the companies, investors and journalists keep asking him this question. And there's a reason why, both the companies are unprofitable (for now, at least), and pretty much every social media app that emerges on the face of the Earth is able to gain more users and figure out a better business plan than the decade-old Twitter. In a column on The Outline, Adrianne Jeffries writes: This question popped up again this week on Twitter's earnings call. Twitter missed its fourth quarter revenue targets. The stock is down and advertising revenue is down. User growth plateaued a year ago. Bloomberg estimated that Twitter has about 140 million daily active users, which was recently surpassed by the much-younger Snapchat. [...] Unlike Twitter, Square has real competitors, including PayPal, Intuit, and Stripe. "Twitter's got a niche where it owns that niche," said Jay Ritter, a professor at the Department of Finance at the University of Florida who specializes in IPOs. "Square, on the other hand, has competition. It is not something where it owns a niche. There are other ways to have easy electronic payments. And consequently, investors are more concerned about, is Square going to be able to get sufficient size that it then becomes profitable? Or is a competitor going to wind up dominating the market?" That's one reason why investors, and probably Dorsey himself, are still seduced by Twitter. While Twitter has seen user growth stall -- a very bad sign for a social network -- it's still able to capture a lot of mindshare, and some investors believe that that means there is still a windfall to be made. Facebook, after all, saw its stock cut in half after its IPO only to rebound and march steadily upward. At this point, it's clear that Facebook has a solid business and terrifying staying power. That's what Twitter investors want: to dominate a market, trap advertisers, and conquer the world. The possibility that maybe Twitter has no competitors because there is no money to be made in microblogging is sidelined. As Ritter said, "Just because it's a winner-take-all market doesn't mean it's a profitable winner-take-all market."

Glass From Nuclear Test Site Shows the Moon Was Born Dry ( 48

An anonymous reader quotes a report from New Scientist: We can't recreate the giant impact that led to the moon's formation in a lab, but humans have made some other big explosions. By examining residue from the first detonation of a nuclear weapon, researchers have cracked a window into the moon's past. On 16 July 1945, the U.S. army detonated a nuclear weapon for the first time in an operation codenamed Trinity (see photo, above). As the bomb exploded with an energy equivalent to 20 kilotons of TNT, the sand underneath it melted, producing a thin sheet of mostly green glass dubbed trinitite. The explosion brought the area around the bomb to temperatures over 8000 C and pressures nearing 80,000 atmospheres. These extreme conditions are similar to those created as the moon formed in a colossal collision between Earth and another rock, probably about the size of Mars. Fortunately for planetary science, scientists meticulously measured and recorded the details of the Trinity detonation, so there is plenty of information to work with. Day and his colleagues took advantage of that past precision to investigate why the moon has surprisingly little water and other volatiles with a relatively low boiling point -- much less than Earth. To do so, they studied the distribution of one volatile element, zinc, in trinitite collected at different distances out from the explosion's center. They found that the closer to the explosion the trinitite formed, the less zinc it had, especially when it came to zinc's lighter isotopes. That's because these evaporated in the intense heat of the explosion, while the heavier isotopes didn't and so remained in the trinitite. The ratios of different forms of zinc left behind in trinitite showed remarkable parallels to what was observed in the moon rocks retrieved in the Apollo missions. This means that zinc and other volatile elements, most notably water, probably evaporated off the moon while it was being formed in a violent collision or soon afterward, while its surface was still incredibly hot. The study has been published in Science Advances.

Scientists Successfully Decode the Genome of Quinoa ( 291

Gr8Apes writes: Scientists have successfully decoded the genome of quinoa, a hugely popular "super-food" because it is well balanced and gluten-free. They have pinpointed one of the genes that they believe control the production of saponins (bitter toxic compounds that protect the plant from predators) which can facilitate the breeding of plants without saponins, resulting in sweeter seeds without having to process them. The scientists also believe that the genetic understanding now gained will allow them to breed shorter, stockier plants that don't fall over as easily, and that these benefits could be gained without the use of genetic modification. Furthermore, the researchers believe the genetic code will rapidly lead to more productive varieties that will push down costs. "We need the price of quinoa to go down by a factor of five," said project leader Professor Mark Tester, from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. "If we get to a similar price to wheat it can be used in processing and in bread making and in many other foods and products. It has the chance to truly add to current world food production." The study has been published in the journal Nature.

A Supermassive Black Hole Has Been Devouring a Star For a Decade ( 69

An anonymous reader quotes a report from USA Today: A massive black hole devoured a star over a 10 year period, setting a new record for the longest space meal ever observed, according to new research. Researchers spotted the ravenous black hole with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and Swift satellite as well as ESA's XMM-Newton, according to a statement from NASA. When objects like stars get too close to black holes, the intense gravity of the black hole can rip the star apart in what's called a tidal disruption event (TDE), according to NASA. While some of the debris from the star is flung forward, parts of it are pulled back and ingested by the black hole, where it heats up and emits an X-ray flare, NASA said in a statement. The tidal disruption event spotted by the trio of X-ray telescopes, is unlike anything researchers have ever seen, lasting ten times longer than any observed incident of star's death caused by a black hole, according to research published in Nature Astronomy Feb. 6. The black hole, dubbed XJ1500+0154, is located in a galaxy 1.8 billion light-years from Earth. Researchers first spotted it in 2005 and it reached peak brightness in 2008, according to the statement. According to NASA, researchers believe that the black hole may have consumed the most massive star ever completely torn apart during a TDE.

A Crack in an Antarctic Ice Shelf Grew 17 Miles in the Last Two Months 333

Jugal K Patel, writing for the NYTimes: A rapidly advancing crack in Antarctica's fourth-largest ice shelf has scientists concerned that it is getting close to a full break. The rift has accelerated this year in an area already vulnerable to warming temperatures. Since December, the crack has grown by the length of about five football fields each day (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source). The crack in Larsen C now reaches over 100 miles in length, and some parts of it are as wide as two miles. The tip of the rift is currently only about 20 miles from reaching the other end of the ice shelf. Once the crack reaches all the way across the ice shelf, the break will create one of the largest icebergs ever recorded, according to Project Midas, a research team that has been monitoring the rift since 2014. Because of the amount of stress the crack is placing on the remaining 20 miles of the shelf, the team expects the break soon.

Slashdot Top Deals