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  • Japan's Shinkansen Bullet Trains Celebrate 50th Anniversary

    AmiMoJo writes Japan's Shinkansen bullet-train has marked its 50th anniversary. The first Shinkansen between Tokyo and Osaka debuted on October 1st, 1964, ahead of the Tokyo Summer Olympics. Since then, the Shinkansen has run about 2 billion kilometers, or the equivalent of 50,000 times around the earth. It has carried about 5.6 billion passengers. The latest series to enter operation, the E5, operates at 320km/h.

    76 comments | 5 hours ago

  • Earth Gets Another Quasi-Moon

    The Bad Astronomer writes Astronomers have found a new asteroid, 2014 OL339, that is a quasi-moon of the Earth. Discovered accidentally earlier this year, the 150-meter asteroid has an orbit that is more elliptical than Earth's, but has a period of almost exactly one year. It isn't bound to Earth like a real moon, but displays apparent motion as if it did, making it one of several known quasi-moons.

    44 comments | 6 hours ago

  • Elon Musk: We Must Put a Million People On Mars To Safeguard Humanity

    An anonymous reader writes: Elon Musk's ambitions for SpaceX keep getting bigger. First he wanted to make the trip to Mars affordable, then he wanted to establish a city-sized colony, and now he's got his eye on the future of humanity. Musk says we need a million people on Mars to form a "sustainable, genetically diverse civilization" that can survive as humanity's insurance policy. He continued, "Even at a million, you're really assuming an incredible amount of productivity per person, because you would need to recreate the entire industrial base on Mars. You would need to mine and refine all of these different materials, in a much more difficult environment than Earth. There would be no trees growing. There would be no oxygen or nitrogen that are just there. No oil." How fast could we do it? Within a century, once the spacecraft reusability problem is solved. "Excluding organic growth, if you could take 100 people at a time, you would need 10,000 trips to get to a million people. But you would also need a lot of cargo to support those people. In fact, your cargo to person ratio is going to be quite high. It would probably be 10 cargo trips for every human trip, so more like 100,000 trips. And we're talking 100,000 trips of a giant spaceship."

    470 comments | 12 hours ago

  • Antarctic Ice Loss Big Enough To Cause Measurable Shift In Earth's Gravity

    An anonymous reader writes: Contrary to what we were sometimes taught in high school physics, the Earth's gravity is not constant. It actually shows slight variations on different parts of the Earth's surface, and the variations correlate with the density of the material on that surface. The European Space Agency has been measuring gravity for four years, mapping these variations and recording the changes those variations have undergone. Its data indicates "a significant decrease [in gravity] in the region of Antarctica where land ice is melting fastest. Further analysis is, of course, planned so that the whole of Antarctica can be taken into account and "the clearest picture yet of the pace of global warming" can be determined on that continent.

    205 comments | yesterday

  • Marines Put Microsoft Kinect To Work For 3D Mapping

    colinneagle points out this article about how the Marines are using a Microsoft Kinect to build maps. A military contractor has come up with something that has the U.S. Marine Corps interested. The Augmented Reality Sand Table is currently being developed by the Army Research Laboratory and was on display at the Modern Day Marine Expo that recently took place on Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia. The set-up is simple: a table-sized sandbox is rigged with a Microsoft Kinect video game motion sensor and an off-the-shelf projector. Using existing software, the sensor detects features in the sand and projects a realistic topographical map that corresponds to the layout, which can change in real time as observers move the sand around in the box. The setup can also project maps from Google Earth or other mapping and GPS systems, enabling units to visualize the exact terrain they'll be covering for exercises or operations. Eventually, they hope to add visual cues to help troops shape the sandbox to match the topography of a specified map. Eventually, the designers of the sandbox hope to involve remote bases or even international partners in conducting joint training and operations exercises. Future possibilities include large-scale models that could project over a gymnasium floor for a battalion briefing, and a smartphone version that could use a pocket-sized projector to turn any patch of dirt into an operational 3-D map.

    37 comments | 2 days ago

  • Exxon and Russian Operation Discovers Oil Field Larger Than the Gulf of Mexico

    An anonymous reader writes The state-run OAO Rosneft has discovered a vast pool of crude in the Kara Sea region of the Arctic Ocean, arguably bigger than the Gulf of Mexico. From the article: "The discovery sharpens the dispute between Russia and the U.S. over President Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine. The well was drilled before the Oct. 10 deadline Exxon was granted by the U.S. government under sanctions barring American companies from working in Russia’s Arctic offshore. Rosneft and Exxon won’t be able to do more drilling, putting the exploration and development of the area on hold despite the find announced today."

    199 comments | 3 days ago

  • Could We Abort a Manned Mission To Mars?

    StartsWithABang writes: The next great leap in human spaceflight is a manned mission to a world within our Solar System: most likely Mars. But if something went wrong along the journey — at launch, close to Earth, or en route — whether biological or mechanical, would there be any way to return to Earth? This article is a fun (and sobering) look at what the limits of physics and technology allow at present. If you're interested in a hard sci-fi, near-future look at how a catastrophic Mars mission might go, you should read an excellent novel called The Martian by Andy Weir.

    265 comments | 3 days ago

  • Utilities Should Worry; Rooftop Solar Could Soon Cut Their Profit

    Lucas123 writes A study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory predicts that distributed rooftop solar panel installations will grow from 0.2% market penetration today to 10% by 2022, during which time they're likely to cut utility profits from 8% to 41%. Using those same metrics, electricity rates for utility customers will grow only by as much as 2.7% over the next eight years. By comparison, the cost of electricity on average rose 3.1% from 2013 to 2014. The study was performed for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy under the U.S. Department of Energy. One of the main purposes of the study was to evaluate measures that could be pursued by utilities and regulators to reduce the financial impacts of distributed photovoltaics.

    491 comments | 4 days ago

  • Underwater Landslide May Have Doubled 2011 Japanese Tsunami

    sciencehabit writes An underwater landslide the size of the Paris may have triggered the worst of the tsunami that struck Japan on 11 March 2011, a new study claims. In the new study, researchers worked back from details of the ocean surface motion recorded by gauges along the Japanese shore on the day of the earthquake. Much as sound waves can help the ear pinpoint the source of a gunshot and whether a small pistol or a large cannon fired it, tsunami waves carry the imprint of the ocean floor disturbance that created them. The team concludes that during the earthquake a slab of sediment 20 km by 40 km and up to 2 km thick slid about 300 meters down the steep slope of Japan Trench, 'acting like a piston.'

    27 comments | 4 days ago

  • Solar System's Water Is Older Than the Sun

    astroengine writes Next time you're swimming in the ocean, consider this: part of the water is older than the sun. So concludes a team of scientists who ran computer models comparing the ratios of hydrogen isotopes over time. Taking into account new insights that the solar nebula had less ionizing radiation than previously thought, the models show that at least some of the water found in the ocean, as well as in comets, meteorites and on the moon, predate the sun's birth.

    173 comments | about a week ago

  • Water Discovered In Exoplanet Atmosphere

    PattonPending sends news of the discovery of the smallest exoplanet yet to have water vapor in its atmosphere. Astronomers have detected water vapor in the atmosphere of a planet that orbits a star far beyond our solar system. Observations of the Neptune-sized planet, which lies 120 light years from Earth in the constellation of Cygnus, revealed that its atmosphere was mostly hydrogen with around 25% made up from water va-pour. Until now, researchers have been frustrated in their efforts to study the atmospheres of planets much smaller than Jupiter because their skies were thick with clouds. The problem was so persistent that astronomers had begun to think that all warm, small planets formed with substantial cloud cover. But writing in the journal Nature, scientists in the U.S. describe how they found a Neptune-sized planet with cloud-free skies, enabling them to make detailed measurements of a small planet's atmosphere for the first time.

    50 comments | about a week ago

  • Mangalyaan Successfully Put Into Mars Orbit

    knwny writes: India's Mars satellite Mangalyaan was successfully placed into orbit around Mars early on Wednesday following a 10-month journey from Earth. India thus joins the U.S., the European Space Agency and the former Soviet Union in having successfully completed a Mars mission. It is, however, the only one to have done so on the first attempt. Headed by the Indian space agency ISRO, Mangalyaan was made in 15 months at a cost of just around 74 million USD — the cheapest inter-planetary mission ever to be undertaken.

    173 comments | about a week ago

  • Study Links Pacific Coastal Warming To Changing Winds

    tranquilidad writes: In a paper published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, two authors ascribe the majority of northeast pacific coastal warming to natural atmospheric circulation and not to anthropogenic forcing. In AP's reporting, Ken Caldeira, an atmospheric scientist with the Carnegie Institution for Science, says the paper's authors, "...have not established the causes of these atmospheric pressure variations. Thus, claims that the observed temperature increases are due primarily to 'natural' processes are suspect and premature, at best." The paper's authors, on the other hand, state, "...clearly, there are other factors stronger than the greenhouse forcing that is affecting...temperatures," and that there is a "surprising degree to which the winds can explain all the wiggles in the temperature curve."

    207 comments | about a week ago

  • Update: Mangalyaan's Main Engine Test Fired, Maven In Orbit

    William Robinson writes Before the spacecraft is scheduled to enter Mars orbit, Indian Space Research Organization (Isro) scientists reignited the Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft's main engine for four seconds as a trial. The liquid apogee motor (LAM) engine has been idle for about 300 days since the spacecraft left the Earth's orbit on a Martian trajectory on December 1, 2013. The short-duration test was to ensure that the engine is in good shape for the 24-minute crucial maneuver on Wednesday." In other Mars mission updates, NASA's Maven spacecraft arrived at Mars late Sunday after a 442 million-mile journey that began nearly a year ago.

    25 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Hundreds of Thousands Turn Out For People's Climate March In New York City

    mdsolar writes with an update on the People's Climate March. More than 400,000 people turned out for the People's Climate March in New York City on Sunday, just days before many of the world's leaders are expected to debate environmental action at the United Nations climate summit. Early reports from event organizers are hailing the turnout as the largest climate march in history, far bigger than the Forward on Climate rally held in Washington, D.C., last year. High-profile environmentalists including Bill McKibben, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jane Goodall and Vandana Shiva marched alongside policymakers such as Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and former Vice President Al Gore were also there, and more than 550 buses carried in people from around the country.

    200 comments | about two weeks ago

  • 2 Mars Missions Set For Arrival, Both Prepare for Orbital Maneuvers

    As reported by the BBC, NASA's Maven Mars orbiter has nearly reached the red planet, and will undergo a 33-minute rocket burn to slow its course. Monday's big manoeuvre on Maven's engines will place the satellite in a high, elliptical, 35-hour orbit around the planet. Confirmation of capture should be received on Earth shortly after 0220 GMT (2220 EDT Sunday; 0320 BST). "We should have a preliminary answer within just a few minutes after the end of the burn," said [principal investigator professor Bruce] Jakosky. In the coming weeks, engineers will then work to bring Maven into a regular 4.5-hour, operational orbit that takes the probe as close as 150km to Mars but also sends it out to 6,200km. India's first mission to Mars faces a critical test as it does a similar maneuver -- firing of a rocket to slow its travel as it approaches Mars orbit.

    65 comments | about two weeks ago

  • SpaceX Launches Supplies to ISS, Including Its First 3D Printer

    A "flawless" launch early Sunday from Cape Canaveral has sent a load of supplies on its way to the International Space Station aboard a Falcon 9-lofted SpaceX Dragon capsule. Food, care packages and provisions for NASA's astronauts make up more than a third of the cargo onboard Dragon. But the spacecraft also has experiments and equipment that will eventually help scientists complete 255 research projects in total, according to NASA. In Dragon's trunk, there's an instrument dubbed RapidScat, which will be installed outside the space station to measure the speed and direction of ocean winds on Earth. Among the commercially funded experiments onboard Dragon is a materials-science test from the sports company Cobra Puma Golf designed to build a stronger golf club. Dragon is also hauling the first space-grade 3D printer, built by Made in Space, which will test whether the on-the-spot manufacturing technology is viable without gravity.

    129 comments | about two weeks ago

  • New Study Projects World Population of 11B by 2100

    vinces99 (2792707) writes Using modern statistical tools, a new study led by the University of Washington and the United Nations finds that world population is likely to keep growing throughout the 21st century. The number of people on Earth is likely to reach 11 billion by 2100, the study concludes, about 2 billion higher than widely cited previous estimates. The paper published online Sept. 18 in the journal Science includes the most up-to-date numbers for future world population, and describes a new method for creating such estimates. "The consensus over the past 20 years or so was that world population, which is currently around 7 billion, would go up to 9 billion and level off or probably decline," said corresponding author Adrian Raftery, a UW professor of statistics and of sociology. ... The paper explains the most recent United Nations population data released in July. This is the first U.N. population report to use modern statistics, known as Bayesian statistics, that combines all available information to generate better predictions.

    Most of the anticipated growth is in Africa, where population is projected to quadruple from around 1 billion today to 4 billion by the end of the century. The main reason is that birth rates in sub-Saharan Africa have not been going down as fast as had been expected. There is an 80 percent chance that the population in Africa at the end of the century will be between 3.5 billion and 5.1 billion people.

    326 comments | about two weeks ago

  • NASA Inspector General Lobs Big Rocks At Agency's Asteroid Hunting Program

    coondoggie writes Lack of money, management structure and staff are hampering NASA's ability to effectively identify and track comets, meteorites and asteroids that might threaten Earth. The space agency's Inspector General, Paul Martin, issued a scathing report this week that said while NASA's Near Earth Object program has done substantial work in identifying the sometimes massive rocks hurtling around the planet it is substantially behind in its goal of cataloging 90% of those 140 meters in diameter by 2020, among other issues.

    35 comments | about two weeks ago

  • New Data Center Protects Against Solar Storm and Nuclear EMPs

    dcblogs writes "In Boyers, Pa., a recently opened 2,000-sq.-ft. data center has been purpose-built to protect against an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), either generated by a solar storm or a nuclear event. The company that built the facility isn't disclosing exactly how the data center was constructed or what materials were used. But broadly, it did say that the structure has an inner skin and an outer skin that use a combination of thicknesses and metals to provide EMP protection. Betting against an EMP event is a gamble. In 1859, the so-called Carrington solar storm lit the night skies and disrupted the only telegraph communications. William Murtagh, program coordinator at U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center, said there is ongoing concern that the earth may see an solar storm that could impact electronics on the ground. "We're concerned that can happen," A 2012 solar storm, that missed the earth, "was very powerful, and some have suggested it would have been on par with a Carrington-level event." One researcher put the odds of a catastrophic solar storm by 2020 as one in eight.

    59 comments | about two weeks ago

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