JoeRobe writes: Roanoke Colony (on the coast of North Carolina) disappeared sometime between 1587 and 1590, with the only clue to its fate being the word "Croatoan" carved into a wooden post. Now, as if straight out of an Indiana Jones script, new clues to the whereabouts of the lost colony may have been discovered on a 16th-century map. The British Museum has re-examined the watercolor map to find a hidden symbol under a patch, in the shape of a 4-pointed star. The star likely indicates the location of an existing or intended fort that the settlers may have retreated to after abandoning the colony. Adding to the mystery, the patch overlaying the star may have been added in order to hide it from the "spy-riddled English court."
JoeRobe writes: According to spaceweather.com, a major X5 solar flare is on it's way to deliver a glancing blow to the Earth's magnetic field. This is the second x-class flare to be released by the same sunspot in the past few days, the first being an X1. In both cases, the sunspot (spot 1429) was not directly facing Earth, but it is still active, and poses a threat for a large, Earth-directed flare in the next few days.
JoeRobe writes: For the first time in 30 years, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved licenses to build two new nuclear reactors in Georgia. These are the first licenses to be issued since the Three Mile Island incident in 1979. The pair of facilities will cost $14 billion and produce 2.2 GW of power (able to power ~1 million homes). They will be Westinghouse AP1000 designs, which are the newest reactors approved by the NRC. These models passively cool their fuel rods using condensation and gravity, rather than electricity, preventing the possibility of another Fukushima Daiichi-type meltdown due to loss of power to cooling water pumps.
JoeRobe writes: Researchers at Harvard have developed a pneumatically-controlled rubber robot that combines undulation and quadrupedal "crawling", allowing it to maintain a low profile while moving. In a paper in published in PNAS, they describe it as "A soft robot, composed exclusively of soft materials (elastomeric polymers), which is inspired by animals (e.g., squid, starfish, worms) that do not have hard internal skeletons." The robot is solely powered by relatively low pressures (10 psi), and controlled by 5 pneumatic actuators. The research was funded by DARPA.
JoeRobe writes: Space.comandothers are reporting on a story by NASA, in which they have found "significant" amounts of water ice on the moon as a consequence of NASA's LCROSS lunar impact mission. From the article, 'Based on the measurements, the team estimated about 100 kilograms of water in the view of their instruments — the equivalent of about a dozen 2-gallon buckets'.
JoeRobe writes: According to a new article in PNAS, the naked mole rat is found to be cancer impervious. As reported by ScienceNOW report: "The naked mole rat's cells hate to be crowded, it turns out, so they stop growing before they can form tumors....Normal human and mouse cells will grow and divide in a petri dish until they mash tightly against one another in a single, dense layer--a mechanism known as 'contact inhibition.' Naked mole rat cells are even more sensitive to their neighbors, the researchers found. The cells stop growing as soon as they touch. The strategy likely helps keep the rodents cancer-free, as contact inhibition fails in cancerous cells, causing them to pile up."
JoeRobe writes: After over 5 months of operation, NASA's Mars Phoenix lander has finallysuccumbed to the harsh Martian autumn. The lander's mission was originally scheduled for only 3 months. From the article: "As anticipated, seasonal decline in sunshine at the robot's arctic landing site is not providing enough sunlight for the solar arrays to collect the power necessary to charge batteries that operate the lander's instruments... The lander dug, scooped, baked, sniffed and tasted the Red Planet's soil. Among early results, it verified the presence of water-ice in the Martian subsurface, which NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter first detected remotely in 2002." The article points out that while the lander may be dead, the enormous amount of data that it obtained will keep scientists busy for years.
JoeRobe writes: CNN is reporting that most kids (97%) play video games on a regular basis. From the story: "half of boys who were questioned listed a game with an "M" or "AO" rating as one of their favorites, compared with 14 percent of girls." However, the researchers are avoiding deeming gaming "good" or "bad". In fact, they found that "those who played games in face-to-face social settings were more likely to say they were committed to civic participation," possibly because gaming can make ties with other local gamers, which in turn stimulates "civic engagement."
JoeRobe writes: "Phoenix has successfully filled oven #4 of the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer instrument (TEGA). They have spent several days now vibrating the screen above the oven, trying to get a significant amount of soil sample into it. From the article: "the oven might have filled because of the cumulative effects of all the vibrating, or because of changes in the soil's cohesiveness as it sat for days on the top of the screen." Either way, this is the first step toward getting some interesting data from this instrument."