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NASA is ‘thrilled’ with pad abort test for Boeing’s Starliner space taxi despite parachute glitch

Mon, 11/04/2019 - 11:50

Boeing cleared a key milestone for launching NASA astronauts on its CST-100 Starliner space taxi today by executing an end-to-end test of its rocket-powered launch abort system — a test that did what it needed to do even though one of the craft's three parachutes didn't open. Data from the pad abort test at the U.S. Army's White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico will be fully analyzed in advance of an uncrewed Starliner mission to the International Space Station and back, currently scheduled for a Dec. 17 launch, Boeing and NASA said. “Tests like this one are crucial to… Read More

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Boeing crew capsule completes major flight test in desert

Mon, 11/04/2019 - 10:21

Boeing's capsule for astronauts underwent its first major flight test Monday, shooting a mile into the air then parachuting back to the New Mexico desert. The Starliner capsule carried no crew, just a test dummy for the 1 ½-minute shakedown of the launch abort system. Only two of the three main parachutes opened, but both NASA and Boeing said astronauts would have been safe if aboard.

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Trump administration eases Obama-era rule on coal pollution

Mon, 11/04/2019 - 09:59

The Trump administration moved Monday to relax Obama-era limits on coal plants discharging ash- and metal-contaminated waste into waterways, the latest in a series of administration breaks for the lagging U.S. coal industry and for utilities using coal-fired power plants. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Andrew Wheeler signed the proposal, which would ease parts of a 2015 Obama rule that was meant to limit power plant discharges of wastewater laden with toxic coal ash and heavy metals including arsenic, mercury and selenium.

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These songbirds seem eerily good at predicting hurricane seasons, Delaware researcher finds

Mon, 11/04/2019 - 09:44

A Delaware State University professor's bird database may be doing a better job of predicting Atlantic hurricane seasons than meteorologists.

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NASA probe provides insight on solar system's border with interstellar space

Mon, 11/04/2019 - 09:08

The journey of NASA's dauntless Voyager 2 spacecraft through our solar system's farthest reaches has given scientists new insight into a poorly understood distant frontier: the unexpectedly distinct boundary marking where the sun's energetic influence ends and interstellar space begins. The U.S. space agency previously announced that Voyager 2, the second human-made object ever to depart the solar system following its twin Voyager 1, had zipped into interstellar space on Nov. 5, 2018 at a point more than 11 billion miles (17.7 billion km) from the sun. Voyager 1 left the solar system at a different location in 2012.

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40 distressing photos show glaciers disappearing around the world

Mon, 11/04/2019 - 08:49

The future of glaciers around the world is shaky. Here are photos showing some of the glaciers that might not be around for much longer.

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Mystery fish being eaten by Australians found to be unknown to science

Mon, 11/04/2019 - 07:00

A fish previously unknown to science has been discovered – on Australians’ plates.People in southeastern Australia had apparently been happily catching and eating a reportedly tasty type of grouper, without realising the somewhat unremarkable fish had not been officially documented.

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Possibility or pipe dream: How close are we to seeing flying cars?

Mon, 11/04/2019 - 05:37

Drivable aircraft would require batteries that aren't ready. Then there are the legislative and infrastructure hurdles that could take a decade or longer to clear.

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Space shipment launched with sports car parts, cookie oven

Sat, 11/02/2019 - 09:37

A supply ship rocketed toward the International Space Station on Saturday with sports car parts, an oven for baking cookies and a vest to protect against radiation. Northrop Grumman launched its Cygnus capsule for NASA from Wallops Island, Virginia. The space station's astronauts will test the oven by baking chocolate chip cookies and try out the new safety vest to gauge its comfort.

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Antarctic marine sanctuary talks deadlocked for eighth straight year

Fri, 11/01/2019 - 20:36

A multinational effort to create giant marine sanctuaries around Antarctica to counter climate change and protect fragile ocean ecosystems has failed for an eighth straight year, officials said Saturday. Opposition from China and Russia torpedoed the proposal at the annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), a consortium of 25 nations plus the European Union, sources familiar with the closed-door discussions told AFP. The meeting in the Australian city of Hobart, which ended late Friday, considered proposals to create conservation parks in three key areas off Antarctica covering a total of some three million square kilometres (1.2 million square miles).

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Space station will be getting a satellite made by Seattle students — plus cookies!

Fri, 11/01/2019 - 14:27

When Northrop Grumman launches a robotic Cygnus cargo capsule to the International Space Station on Saturday morning, it'll mark one giant leap for one small satellite built by students at the University of Washington and Seattle's Raisbeck Aviation High School. The 7-pound HuskySat-1 is among 8,200 pounds of supplies, equipment and scientific payloads packed aboard the Cygnus for liftoff atop Northrop Grumman's Antares rocket at 9:59 a.m. ET (6:59 a.m. PT) from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on the Virginia coast. NASA will air live coverage starting at 6:30 a.m. PT. HuskySat-1, which is about the size of a loaf of bread,… Read More

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America's 14-year-old 'Top Young Scientist' has a plan to fight superbug diseases

Fri, 11/01/2019 - 10:16

Kara Fan is not your run-of-the-mill 14-year-old. She is America’s Top Young Scientist.

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Happy Halloween from Hubble Telescope: Otherworldly ‘eyes’ glow in ghostly galaxy

Thu, 10/31/2019 - 11:48

Now here's something really scary for Halloween: Imagine two galaxies slamming into each other and creating a monstrous wraith with ghostly glowing eyes. It's not that far of a stretch. The Hubble Space Telescope captured just such an image, for a team of astronomers based at the University of Washington. The visible-light picture, taken in June by Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys, shows a galactic smash-up that took place about 700 million light-years away in the constellation Microscopium. The cosmic collision is known as Arp-Madore 2026-424 or AM 2026-424, because it's noted that way in the Arp-Madore Catalogue of Southern… Read More

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Scientists track the arms race that’s playing out between bacteria in your gut

Wed, 10/30/2019 - 21:44

The balance of bacteria in your gut can make the difference between sickness and health — and now scientists report that different species of bacteria share immunity genes to protect themselves against each other's toxins and maintain their balance of power. In effect, closely related species of bacteria acquire each other's defense systems to fend off threats from alien invaders. The findings appear in a paper published today in the journal Nature. The senior authors are Joseph Mougous, a microbiology professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine; and Elhanan Borenstein, a former UW Medicine geneticist who now works… Read More

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Thousands of animals around the world are at risk of extinction. But not jellyfish — they're thriving in warm, polluted water.

Wed, 10/30/2019 - 16:17

Half a million of Earth's species may soon be vulnerable to extinction, according to the UN. Jellyfish, however, are proliferating in warmer waters.

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Allen Institute maps out a high-resolution ‘org chart’ for connections in the brain

Wed, 10/30/2019 - 12:00

Researchers at Seattle's Allen Institute say a new and improved map of the mouse brain reveals not only how different regions are connected, but how those connections are ordered in a hierarchical way. They add that the mapping techniques behind their study, which was published today by the journal Nature, could shed light on how diseases like Alzheimer's, Partkinson's or schizophrenia tangle up connections in the human brain. The map produced by the study is technically known as a medium-scale "connectome." It's been variously compared to a wiring diagram, organizational chart or subway map for the brain. An initial version… Read More

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'OK Boomer' Marks the End of Friendly Generational Relations

Wed, 10/30/2019 - 06:26

In a viral audio clip on TikTok, a white-haired man in a baseball cap and polo shirt declares, "The millennials and Generation Z have the Peter Pan syndrome, they don't ever want to grow up."Thousands of teens have responded through remixed reaction videos and art projects with a simple phrase: "OK boomer.""OK boomer" has become Generation Z's endlessly repeated retort to the problem of older people who just don't get it, a rallying cry for millions of fed up kids. Teenagers use it to reply to cringey YouTube videos, Donald Trump tweets, and basically any person over 30 who says something condescending about young people -- and the issues that matter to them.Teenagers have scrawled the message in their notebooks and carved it into at least one pumpkin. For senior picture day at one Virginia high school, a group of nine students used duct tape to plaster "OK boomer" across their chests.The meme-to-merch cycle is nothing new, but unlike most novelty products, "OK boomer" merch is selling. Shannon O'Connor, 19, designed a T-shirt and hoodie with the phrase "OK boomer" written in the "thank you" style of a plastic shopping bag. She uploaded it to Bonfire, a site for selling custom apparel, with the tagline "OK boomer have a terrible day." After promoting the shirt on TikTok, she received more than $10,000 in orders."The older generations grew up with a certain mindset, and we have a different perspective," O'Connor said. "A lot of them don't believe in climate change or don't believe people can get jobs with dyed hair, and a lot of them are stubborn in that view. Teenagers just respond, 'OK, boomer.' It's like, we'll prove you wrong, we're still going to be successful because the world is changing."O'Connor is far from the only one cashing in. Hundreds of "OK boomer" products are for sale through on-demand shopping sites like Redbubble and Spreadshirt, where many young people are selling "OK boomer" phone cases, bedsheets, stickers, pins and more.Nina Kasman, an 18-year-old college student selling "OK boomer" stickers, socks, shirts, leggings, posters, water bottles, notebooks and greeting cards, said that while older generations have always looked down on younger kids or talked about things "back in their day," she and other teens believe older people are actively hurting young people. "Everybody in Gen Z is affected by the choices of the boomers, that they made and are still making," she said. "Those choices are hurting us and our future. Everyone in my generation can relate to that experience and we're all really frustrated by it.""Gen Z is going to be the first generation to have a lower quality of life than the generation before them," said Joshua Citarella, 32, a researcher who studies online communities. Teenagers today find themselves, he said, with "three major crises all coming to a head at the Gen Z moment.""Essentials are more expensive than ever before, we pay 50% of our income to rent, no one has health insurance," Citarella said. "Previous generations have left Generation Z with the short end of the stick. You see this on both the left, right, up down and sideways." Citarella added: "The merch is proof of how much the sentiment resonates with people."Rising inequality, unaffordable college tuition, political polarization exacerbated by the internet, and the climate crisis all fuel anti-boomer sentiment.And so Kasman and other teenagers selling merch say that monetizing the boomer backlash is their own little form of protest against a system they feel is rigged. "The reason we make the 'OK boomer' merch is because there's not a lot that I can personally do to reduce the price of college, for example, which was much cheaper for older generations who then made it more expensive," Kasman said. "There's not much I can personally do to restore the environment, which was harmed due to corporate greed of older generations. There's not much I can personally do to undo political corruption, or fix Congress so it's not mostly old white men boomers who don't represent the majority of generations."Kasman said she plans to use proceeds to pay for college. So do others."I'll definitely use the money for my student loans, paying my rent. Stuff that will help me survive," said Everett Solares, 19, who is selling a slew of rainbow "OK boomer" products. "I hadn't seen any gay stuff for 'OK boomer,' so I just chose every product that I could find in case anyone wanted it," she said.Gavin Deschutter, 17, reimagines famous logos for companies like FedEx, Budweiser, Google, and KFC with the catch phrase, and has been selling T-shirts and phone cases emblazoned with the message. He hasn't made very much -- "I sold a hoodie yesterday for $36," he said -- but his designs have been shared across meme pages on Instagram.Every movement needs an anthem, and the undisputed boomer backlash hymn is a song written and produced by Jonathan Williams, a 20-year-old college student. Titled, inevitably, "OK boomer," the song opens with: "It's funny you think I respect your opinion, when your hairline looks that disrespectful."The chorus consists of Williams screaming "OK boomer" repeatedly into the mic. Peter Kuli, a 19-year-old college student, created a remix of the song, which has seen 4,000 TikToks made from the track. The two planned to split the revenue earned through streams of the song on Spotify."The song is aggressive and ridiculous, but I think it says a lot about Gen Z culture," Kuli said. "I think because of the internet, people are finally feeling like they have a voice and an outlet to critique the generations who got us into this position.""Millennials and Gen Xers are on our side, but I think Gen Z is finally putting their feet in the ground and saying enough is enough," he said.Teens say "OK boomer" is the perfect response because it's blase but cutting. It's the digital equivalent of an eye roll. And because boomers so frequently refer to younger generations as "snowflakes," a few teenagers said, it's particularly hilarious to watch them freak out about the phrase."If they do take it personally, it just further proves that they take everything we do as offensive. It's just funnier," said Saptarshi Biswas, 17."Instead of taking offense to them, you're just like, ha-ha," said Julitza Mitchell, 18.In the end, boomer is just a state of mind. Williams said anyone can be a boomer -- with the right attitude. "You don't like change, you don't understand new things especially related to technology, you don't understand equality," he said. "Being a boomer is just having that attitude, it can apply to whoever is bitter toward change.""We're not taking a jab at boomers as a whole -- we're not going for their lives," said Christopher Mezher, 18. "If it's a jab at anyone it's outdated political figures who try to run our lives.""You can keep talking," Kasman said, as if to a boomer, "but we're going to change the future."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company

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Far more people are threatened by rising seas than scientists realized, a study shows: 'The magnitude of the numbers speaks for itself'

Tue, 10/29/2019 - 10:00

A new study suggests that far more people could experience the consequences of coastal flooding than earlier estimates suggested.

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New TB Vaccine Could Save Millions of Lives, Study Suggests

Tue, 10/29/2019 - 06:11

In what may be a watershed moment in the fight against tuberculosis, the world's most lethal infectious disease, an experimental new vaccine has protected about half the people who got it, scientists reported Tuesday.While a 50% success rate is hardly ideal -- the measles vaccine, by contrast, is about 98% protective -- about 10 million people get tuberculosis each year, and 1.6 million die of it. Even a partly effective vaccine may save millions of lives.A year ago, when preliminary trial results of the new vaccine were released, the World Health Organization called it "a major scientific breakthrough."Researchers not involved in the vaccine's development were enthusiastic about the latest results, but said it needed to be studied in more people and in different populations."The vaccine looks promising, and likely better than our century-old BCG vaccine," said Dr. Mario C. Raviglione, a global health expert at the University of Milan who headed the WHO's global tuberculosis program from 2003 to 2017.BCG, which is not used in the United States, protects infants against some types of tuberculosis, but does not protect adolescents or adults against the form that attacks the lungs, which is the most common type.Tuberculosis patients suffer fevers and night sweats, lose weight, cough up blood and, if left treated, ultimately die. Five years ago, tuberculosis surpassed AIDS as the deadliest infectious disease worldwide.The new vaccine, made by GSK and now known as M72/AS01E, was tested in about 3,300 adults in Kenya, South Africa and Zambia. All of them already had latent tuberculosis -- a silent infection that might or might not progress to active tuberculosis.Of those who got two doses of the GSK vaccine, only 13 developed active tuberculosis during three years of follow-up, according to the new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine. By contrast, 26 of those who got a placebo progressed to active tuberculosis.Dr. Nazir Ismail, chief of tuberculosis research at South Africa's National Institute of Communicable Diseases, called the vaccine's 50% effectiveness "reasonably good."Giving two shots one month apart, he pointed out, is simpler than current prevention practice, which requires that patients take protective antibiotics every day for a month.Also, using antibiotics for prevention increases the risk that antibiotic-resistant TB will appear, while a vaccine does not.Because so many people die of tuberculosis, Dr. Seth Berkley, chief executive of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, a public-private partnership that buys vaccines for poor countries, said his agency would "certainly give the vaccine a hard look."Gavi already supports some vaccines that are only partly effective, he noted. For example, some vaccines for human papillomavirus, or HPV, stop only 70% of the strains of the cancer-causing virus, and a new malaria vaccine being field-tested in Africa is only 39% effective.An important question raised by the study, researchers said, is who should receive the vaccine.Tuberculosis rates vary enormously not just between countries, but even from neighborhood to neighborhood. The disease thrives in people who live in crowded conditions, inhaling one another's germs, and the bacterium dies quickly in sunlight.Tuberculosis can be transmitted even through something as simple as a cough on a crowded bus. But the people at the highest risk include family members of patients with active tuberculosis, the doctors and nurses caring for them and, in countries where tuberculosis is common, people living or working in crowded conditions, such as prisoners and miners.But in any country, people are also at risk of infection if they have HIV, are severely malnourished, are taking immune-suppressive cancer chemotherapy or organ-transplant drugs, have diabetes or are on dialysis.The new study, however, tested the vaccine only in people who were HIV-negative and whose blood tests showed they had latent tuberculosis.But at least a quarter of the world's population would come up positive for latent tuberculosis on a blood or skin test. The result means only that they have been exposed to tuberculosis germs some time in the past."We have no idea if they have been infected last month or 20 years ago," Raviglione said. Those infected long ago may have already have cleared their bodies of the infection.Most people who are ever going to develop active tuberculosis do so within two years of their first infection. Therefore, some prominent researchers argue that latency tests greatly exaggerate the number of people at risk.As a result, relying on them would cause many more people to be vaccinated than could benefit.Dr. Lalita Ramakrishnan, a tuberculosis expert at the University of Cambridge in Britain, noted that participants in the vaccine study were less likely to develop active tuberculosis in the first year than in the second.That result -- the opposite of what would normally be expected, she said -- implied that the careful screening done by the GSK team for the clinical trial, which included taking medical histories and sputum samples, must have weeded out people with early-stage tuberculosis.To pick people who would benefit most from the vaccine under normal circumstances, she argued, a more accurate diagnostic test must be developed.Alternatively, the vaccine could be restricted to people at obvious high risk, such as nurses in tuberculosis wards -- but that would miss too many potential beneficiaries.In the future, experts said, the GSK vaccine should be tested on people with HIV and on people in other countries, because susceptibility to tuberculosis appears to vary widely.The authors agreed, saying, "These results need confirmation in larger and longer studies conducted in a broader range of populations."Those groups should include people who did not test positive for latent tuberculosis, and people of varying ages and races.It is not known whether genetic differences make some people more susceptible to tuberculosis, or whether the bacteria circulating in various countries vary in infectiousness.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company

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Virgin Galactic soars and then levels off on first day as publicly traded space company

Mon, 10/28/2019 - 14:28

Like the rocket plane it operates, Virgin Galactic's stock price blasted off on its first day as a publicly traded company, and then glided to a somewhat lower altitude. The company, founded 15 years ago by British billionaire Richard Branson, now bills itself as the "world's first and only publicly traded commercial human spaceflight company." It went public today thanks to a merger with a special-purpose vehicle known as Social Capital Hedosophia, or SCH. SCH took on a 49% share of the merged company, which is known as Virgin Galactic Holdings and traded on the New York Stock Exchange as… Read More

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