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Submission + - Using Fuel Depots Instead of Giant Rockets (nytimes.com)

EccentricAnomaly writes: The New York Times has a story about a leaked NASA study that showed it would cost $80 BIllion less and get astronauts to an asteroid sooner if NASA used fuel depots instead of developing a new rocket. According to the article, NASA's response to the leaked study is to start developing fuel depots in addition to continuing its new rocket program. Because, after all, who doesn't need more cool stuff.

Submission + - A Silicon Valley School That Doesn't Use Computers

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Matt Richtel writes that many employees of Silicon Valley giants like Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard send their children to the Waldorf School in Los Altos where the school’s chief teaching tools are anything but high-tech: pens and paper, knitting needles and, occasionally, mud. Not a computer to be found. No screens at all. Computers are not allowed in the classroom, and the school even frowns on their use at home. “I fundamentally reject the notion you need technology aids in grammar school,” says Alan Eagle whose daughter, Andie, attends a Waldorf school, an independent school movement that boasts an 86 year history in North America. “The idea that an app on an iPad can better teach my kids to read or do arithmetic, that’s ridiculous.” Advocates for equipping schools with technology say computers can hold students’ attention and, in fact, that young people who have been weaned on electronic devices will not tune in without them. But Paul Thomas, who has written 12 books about public educational methods, disagrees, and says that a spare approach to technology in the classroom will always benefit learning. “Teaching is a human experience,” says Thomas. “Technology is a distraction when we need literacy, numeracy and critical thinking.”"

Submission + - Chinese robots play ping pong (io9.com)

wisebabo writes: While I'm not sure I'd agree with the commentary as to their emotional disposition, I'm glad that finally someone has built a robot capable of playing ping pong. They don't seem to be that great at playing, but hopefully the technology will get better. As a side note, while the humanoid design is appealing and might help it qualify for competition, is that really the best design? I recall seeing once some Japanese robot that was decidedly not anthropomorphic that did some amazing super fast ball bouncing. Are there any other designs that have been used or even tried?

Submission + - Mars is not the best place to look for life (sciencenews.org) 1

EccentricAnomaly writes: A story over at Science News quotes Alan Stern (former head of NASA Science missions) as saying: "The three strongest candidates [for extraterrestrial life] are all in the outer solar system" He's referring to Europa, Titan, and Enceladus. So why is NASA spending $2.5B on the next Mars Rover and planning to spend over $6B more on a Mars sample return when it can't find the money for much cheaper missions to Europa or Enceladus?

Submission + - Faster-than-Light Neutrino Mystery Likely Solved

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "It's now been three weeks since the extraordinary news that neutrinos travelling between France and Italy had been clocked moving faster than light and more than 80 papers have appeared attempting to debunk or explain the effect. Now Ronald van Elburg at the University of Groningen has made a convincing argument that he has found the error. The OPERA team says it can accurately gauge the instant when the neutrinos are created and the instant they are detected using clocks at each end but the tricky part is keeping the clocks at either end exactly synchronized using GPS satellites, which each broadcast a highly accurate time signal from orbit some 20,000km overhead. But there are two frames of reference: the experiment on the ground and the clocks in orbit. If these are moving relative to each other, then under special relativity "from the perspective of the clock, the detector is moving towards the source and consequently the distance travelled by the particles as observed from the clock is shorter," writes van Elburg. How big is this effect? Van Elburg calculates that it should cause the neutrinos to arrive 32 nanoseconds early but this must be doubled because the same error occurs at each end of the experiment accounting for 64 nanoseconds, almost exactly what the OPERA team observes. "If it stands up, this episode will be laden with irony," according to the Physics arXiv Blog. "Far from breaking Einstein's theory of relatively, the faster-than-light measurement will turn out to be another confirmation of it. ""

Submission + - No more film movie cameras. (creativecow.net)

phil reed writes: Creative Cow Magazine reports that Manufacturers of movie cameras have quietly discontinued production of film cameras. There are still some markets — not in the U.S. — where film cameras are still sold, but those numbers are far fewer than they used to be. If you talk to the people in camera rentals, the amount of film camera utilization in the overall schedule is probably between 30 to 40 percent. However, film usage is dropping fast, which has ramifications up and down the production line. Archivists are worried.

Submission + - Is OMB wiping out planetary exploration? (thespacereview.com)

EccentricAnomaly writes: Lou Friedman (former head of the Planetary Society) has written a provocative article over at Space Policy Review where he accuses the Obama administration of working on plans to gut the robotic Mars program in order to pay for NASA's exciting new rocket. This is after NASA's already killed the Europa mission that was to have been the next outer planet mission after Cassini.

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