Space

We May Have Jupiter To Thank For the Nitrogen In Earth's Atmosphere 46

Posted by Soulskill
from the jupiter-never-forgets-our-birthday dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Nitrogen makes up about 78% of the Earth's atmosphere. It's also the 4th most abundant element in the human body. But where did all the nitrogen on Earth come from? Scientists aren't sure, but they have a new theory. Back when the solar system was just a protoplanetary disk, the ice orbiting the early Sun included ammonia, which has a nitrogen atom and three hydrogen atoms. But there needed to be a way for the nitrogen to get to the developing Earth. That's where Jupiter comes in. During its theorized Grand Tack, where it plunged into the inner solar system and then retreated outward again, it created shock waves in the dust and ice cloud surrounding the sun. These shock waves caused gentle heating of the ammonia ice, which allowed it to melt and react with chromium-bearing metal to form a mineral called carlsbergite. New research (abstract) suggests this mineral was then present when the Earth's accretion happened, supplying much of the nitrogen we would eventually need for life.
Space

Kepler Discovers Solar System's Ancient 'Twin' 67

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-quite-sol-o dept.
astroengine writes: Astronomers have found a star system that bears a striking resemblance to our inner solar system. It's a sun-like star that plays host to a system of five small exoplanets — from the size of Mercury to the size of Venus. But there's something very alien about this compact 'solar system'; it formed when the universe was only 20 percent the age it is now, making it the most ancient star system playing host to terrestrial sized worlds discovered to date.
Oracle

Oracle Releases Massive Security Update 79

Posted by samzenpus
from the protect-ya-neck dept.
wiredmikey writes Oracle has pushed out a massive security update, including critical fixes for Java SE and the Oracle Sun Systems Products Suite. Overall, the update contains nearly 170 new security vulnerability fixes, including 36 for Oracle Fusion Middleware. Twenty-eight of these may be remotely exploitable without authentication and can possibly be exploited over a network without the need for a username and password.
Space

Astronomers Record Mystery Radio Signals From 5.5 Billion Light Years Away 121

Posted by samzenpus
from the from-the-depths-of-space dept.
sarahnaomi writes For the first time ever, astronomers have captured an enormous radio wave burst in real time, bringing us one step closer to understanding their origins. These fleeting eruptions, called blitzars or FRBs (Fast Radio Bursts), are truly bizarre cosmic phenomena. In the span of a millisecond, they emit as much radiation as the Sun does over a million years. But unlike other super-luminous events that span multiple wavelengths—gamma ray bursts or supernovae, for example—blitzars emit all that energy in a tiny band of the radio light spectrum. Adding to the mystery is the rarity of blitzar sightings. Since these bursts were first discovered in 2007 with Australia's Parkes Telescope, ten have been identified, the latest of which was the first to be imaged in real time.
Earth

Analysis Suggests Solar System Contains Massive Trans-Neptunian Objects 170

Posted by timothy
from the I'm-also-waiting-to-be-discovered dept.
BarbaraHudson writes NBC News reports that at least two planets larger than Earth likely lurk far beyond Pluto, just waiting to be discovered, a new analysis of the orbits of "extreme trans-Neptunian objects" (ETNOs) suggests. The potential undiscovered worlds would be more massive than Earth and would lie about 200 AU or more from the sun — so far away that they'd be very difficult, if not impossible, to spot with current instruments. "The exact number is uncertain, given that the data that we have is limited, but our calculations suggest that there are at least two planets, and probably more, within the confines of our solar system," lead author Carlos de la Fuente Marcos, of the Complutense University of Madrid, said. (Here's the longer version at Space.com.)
Medicine

Short-Term Exposure To Diesel Fumes Causes Changes In Gene Expression 132

Posted by Soulskill
from the knowing-when-to-hold-your-breath dept.
BarbaraHudson writes: The Vancouver Sun is reporting on experiments using human volunteers showing that just two hours of exposure to diesel exhaust fumes led to biological changes; some genes were switched on while others turned off. The air quality during the diesel fume exposures is said to be comparable to a Beijing highway or shipping ports in British Columbia. The next step is for researchers to study how changes in gene expression from air pollution affect the human body over the long term, since the study shows genes may be vulnerable to pollution without producing any obvious or immediate symptoms of ill health."
Sci-Fi

The Search For Starivores, Intelligent Life That Could Eat the Sun 300

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-life-jim-but-not-as-oh-god-it's-eating-the-sun dept.
sarahnaomi writes: There could be all manner of alien life forms in the universe, from witless bacteria to superintelligent robots. Still, the notion of a starivore — an organism that literally devours stars — may sound a bit crazy, even to a seasoned sci-fi fan. And yet, if such creatures do exist, they're probably lurking in our astronomical data right now.

That's why philosopher Dr. Clement Vidal, who's a researcher at the Free University of Brussels, along with Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology Stephen Dick, futurist John Smart, and nanotech entrepreneur Robert Freitas are soliciting scientific proposals to seek out star-eating life.
Earth

Aircraft Responsible For 2.5% of Global Carbon Dioxide Emissions 232

Posted by Soulskill
from the plane-and-simple dept.
jIyajbe writes: Christie Aschwanden of FiveThirtyEight.com reports that the world's aircraft are responsible for roughly 2.5% of global carbon dioxide emissions. The industry as a whole puts out more CO2 than most countries, and emissions are expected to grow significantly over the next few decades. She writes, "Planes don't just release carbon dioxide, they also emit nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides and black carbon, as well as water vapor that can form heat-trapping clouds... These emissions take place in the upper troposphere, where their effects are magnified. When this so-called radiative forcing effect is taken into account, aviation emissions produce about 2.7 times the warming effects of CO2 alone." A related article breaks down how much each airline pollutes, relative to the others. Alaska, Spirit, and Frontier are tied for the highest fuel efficiency score, while American beats out Allegiant Air and Sun Country for the lowest spot.
The Military

US Navy Sells 'Top Gun' Aircraft Carrier For One Penny 118

Posted by timothy
from the nostalgia-for-war-porn dept.
HughPickens.com writes Kitsap Sun reports at Military.com that the USS Ranger, a 1,050-foot-long, 56,000-ton Forrestal-class aircraft carrier, is being towed from the inactive ship maintenance facility at Puget Sound for a 3,400-mile, around-Cape Horn voyage to a Texas dismantler who acquired the Vietnam-era warship for a penny for scrap metal. "Under the contract, the company will be paid $0.01. The price reflects the net price proposed by International Shipbreaking, which considered the estimated proceeds from the sale of the scrap metal to be generated from dismantling," said officials for NAVSEA. "[One cent] is the lowest price the Navy could possibly have paid the contractor for towing and dismantling the ship."

The Ranger was commissioned Aug. 10, 1957, at Norfolk Naval Shipyard and decommissioned July 10, 1993, after more than 35 years of service. It was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on March 8, 2004, and redesignated for donation. After eight years on donation hold, the USS Ranger Foundation was unable to raise the funds to convert the ship into a museum or to overcome the physical obstacles of transporting the ship up the Columbia River to Fairview, Oregon. As a result, the Ranger was removed from the list of ships available for donation and designated for dismantling. The Navy, which can't retain inactive ships indefinitely, can't donate a vessel unless the application fully meets the Navy's minimum requirements. The Ranger had been in pristine condition, but for a week in August volunteers from other naval museums were allowed to remove items to improve their ships. The Ranger was in a slew of movies and television shows, including "The Six Million Dollar Man," "Flight of the Intruder" and "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" where it stood in for the USS Enterprise carrier. But the Ranger's most famous role was in the 1980's Tom Cruise hit, "Top Gun." "We would have liked to have seen it become a museum, but it just wasn't in the cards," Navy spokesman Chris Johnson told Fox. "But unfortunately, it is a difficult proposition to raise funds. The group that was going to collect donations had a $35 million budget plan but was only able to raise $100,000."
Space

NuSTAR Takes Beautiful X-ray Image of Sol 44

Posted by Soulskill
from the welcome-to-my-desktop dept.
New submitter swell points out a new image release from NASA, the first taken of the Sun by its Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR). It's the most sensitive shot ever taken in the high-energy X-ray range of the spectrum. Direct image link. While the sun is too bright for other telescopes such as NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, NuSTAR can safely look at it without the risk of damaging its detectors. The sun is not as bright in the higher-energy X-rays detected by NuSTAR, a factor that depends on the temperature of the sun's atmosphere. ... With NuSTAR's high-energy views, it has the potential to capture hypothesized nanoflares -- smaller versions of the sun's giant flares that erupt with charged particles and high-energy radiation. Nanoflares, should they exist, may explain why the sun's outer atmosphere, called the corona, is sizzling hot, a mystery called the "coronal heating problem." The corona is, on average, 1.8 million degrees Fahrenheit (1 million degrees Celsius), while the surface of the sun is relatively cooler at 10,800 Fahrenheit (6,000 degrees Celsius). It is like a flame coming out of an ice cube. Nanoflares, in combination with flares, may be sources of the intense heat.
Space

How Astronomers Will Take the "Image of the Century": a Black Hole 129

Posted by samzenpus
from the use-your-flash dept.
An anonymous reader writes with news that scientists may be close to getting the first image of a black hole. "Researchers studying the universe are ramping up to take the image of the century — the first ever image of a supermassive black hole. While the evidence for the existence of black holes is compelling, Scientists will continue to argue the contrary until physical, observational evidence is provided. Now, a dedicated team of astrophysicists armed with a global fleet of powerful telescopes is out to change that. If they succeed, they will snap the first ever picture of the monstrously massive black hole thought to live at the center of our home galaxy, the Milky Way. This ambitious project, called the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), is incredibly tricky, but recent advances in their research are encouraging the team to push forward, now. The reason EHT needs to be so complex is because black holes, by nature, do not emit light and are, therefore, invisible. In fact, black holes survive by gobbling up light and any other matter — nearby dust, gas, and stars — that fall into their powerful clutches. The EHT team is going to zoom in on a miniscule spot on the sky toward the center of the Milky Way where they believe to be the event horizon of a supermassive black hole weighing in at 4 million times more massive than our sun. We can still see the material, however, right before it falls into eternal darkness. The EHT team is going to try and glimpse this ring of radiation that outlines the event horizon. Experts call this outline the "shadow" of a black hole, and it's this shadow that the EHT team is ultimately after to prove the existence of black holes."
Space

'Mirage Earth' Exoplanets May Have Burned Away Chances For Life 62

Posted by Soulskill
from the some-like-it-hot dept.
vinces99 writes: Planets orbiting close to low-mass stars — easily the most common stars in the universe — are prime targets in the search for extraterrestrial life. But new research led by an astronomy graduate student at the University of Washington indicates some such planets may have long since lost their chance at hosting life because of intense heat during their formative years. Low-mass stars, also called M dwarfs, are smaller than the sun, and also much less luminous, so their habitable zone tends to be fairly close in. The habitable zone is that swath of space that is just right to allow liquid water on an orbiting planet's surface, thus giving life a chance. [Researchers found] through computer simulations that some planets close to low-mass stars likely had their water and atmospheres burned away when they were still forming because they were exposed to high temperatures from their parent stars.
NASA

NASA To Deploy Four Spacecraft To Study Magnetic Reconnection 29

Posted by Soulskill
from the magnets-how-in-space-do-they-work dept.
Zothecula writes: NASA has released a video depicting the initial deployment of an undertaking designed to study a phenomenon known as magnetic reconnection. "Reconnection happens when magnetic field lines explosively realign and release massive bursts of energy, while hurling particles out at nearly the speed of light in all directions. Magnetic reconnection powers eruptions on the sun and – closer to home – it triggers the flow of material and energy from interplanetary space into near-Earth space." The launch of the Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission will see four identical spacecraft deployed from a single Atlas V rocket, set to lift off from cape Canaveral, Florida, no earlier than March next year.
Space

Leonid Meteor Shower Hits Tonight, Peaks Tomorrow 20

Posted by timothy
from the prepare-for-mere-whelming dept.
Though expectations for a spectacular show may be low, the Leonid meteor shower is on the way. For those in the continental U.S., late Monday night into Tuesday early morning will be your best chance to catch a few glimpses. Space.com explains why you might see only a smattering of meteors: This year finds Comet Tempel-Tuttle nearing the far end of its elongated orbit. In 2010, the comet crossed the orbit of Uranus and in 2016 it will be as far from the sun as it can get: 1.84 billion miles (2.96 billion km). That's not only where the comet is, but also where the heaviest concentrations of meteoroids are as well. In contrast, at the point in the comet's orbit where we will be passing by on Tuesday morning, there is nothing save for a scattered few particles; stragglers likely loosed from the comet's nucleus a millennium or two ago. So the 2014 Leonids are expected to show only low activity this year; "maybe" at best 5 to 10 Leonids per hour might be seen.
Debian

Longtime Debian Developer Tollef Fog Heen Resigns From Systemd Maintainer Team 550

Posted by timothy
from the tough-gig dept.
An anonymous reader writes Debian developer Tollef Fog Heen submitted his resignation to the Debian Systemd package maintainers team mailing list today (Sun. Nov. 16th, 2014). In his brief post, he praises the team, but claims that he cannot continue to contribute due to the "load of continued attacks...becoming just too much." Presumably, he is referring to the heated and, at times, even vitriolic criticism of Debian's adoption of Systemd as the default init system for its upcoming Jessie release from commenters inside and outside of the Debian community. Currently, it is not known if Tollef will cease contributing to Debian altogether. A message from his twitter feed indicates that he may blog about his departure in the near future.
Earth

Denmark Faces a Tricky Transition To 100 Percent Renewable Energy 488

Posted by Soulskill
from the it-ain't-easy-being-green dept.
HughPickens.com writes Justin Gillis writes in the NYT that Denmark is pursuing the world's most ambitious policy against climate change, aiming to end the burning of fossil fuels in any form by 2050 — not just in electricity production, as some other countries hope to do, but in transportation as well. The trouble is that while renewable power sources like wind and solar cost nothing to run, once installed, as more of these types of power sources push their way onto the electric grid, they cause power prices to crash at what used to be the most profitable times of day. Conventional power plants, operating on gas or coal or uranium, are becoming uneconomical to run. Yet those plants are needed to supply backup power for times when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining. With their prime assets throwing off less cash, electricity suppliers in Germany and Denmark have applied to shut down a slew of newly unprofitable power plants, but nervous governments are resisting, afraid of being caught short on some cold winter's night with little wind. "We are really worried about this situation," says Anders Stouge, the deputy director general of the Danish Energy Association. "If we don't do something, we will in the future face higher and higher risks of blackouts."

Environmental groups, for their part, have tended to sneer at the problems the utilities are having, contending that it is their own fault for not getting on the renewables bandwagon years ago. But according to Gillis, the political risks of the situation also ought to be obvious to the greens. The minute any European country — or an ambitious American state, like California — has a blackout attributable to the push for renewables, public support for the transition could weaken drastically. Rasmus Helveg Petersen, the Danish climate minister, says he is tempted by a market approach: real-time pricing of electricity for anyone using it — if the wind is blowing vigorously or the sun is shining brightly, prices would fall off a cliff, but in times of shortage they would rise just as sharply.
Space

Revolutionary New View of Baby Planets Forming Around a Star 91

Posted by samzenpus
from the would-you-look-at-that dept.
astroengine writes Welcome to HL Tauri — a star system that is just being born and the target of one of the most mind-blowing astronomical observations ever made. Observed by the powerful Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, this is the most detailed view of the proto-planetary disk surrounding a young star 450 light-years away. And those concentric rings cutting through the glowing gas and dust? Those, my friends, are tracks etched out by planets being spawned inside the disk. In short, this is the mother of all embryonic star system ultrasounds. But this dazzling new observation is so much more — it's a portal into our solar system's past, showing us what our system of planets around a young sun may have looked like over 4 billion years ago. And this is awesome, because it proves that our theoretical understanding about the evolution of planetary systems is correct. However, there are some surprises. "When we first saw this image we were astounded at the spectacular level of detail," said Catherine Vlahakis, ALMA Deputy Program Scientist. "HL Tauri is no more than a million years old, yet already its disc appears to be full of forming planets. This one image alone will revolutionize theories of planet formation."
Editorial

Isaac Asimov: How Do People Get New Ideas? 150

Posted by Soulskill
from the picked-from-the-new-idea-tree dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Arthur Obermayer, a friend of the Isaac Asimov, writes that he recently rediscovered an unpublished essay by Asimov written in 1959 while cleaning out some old files. Obermayer says it is "as broadly relevant today as when he wrote it. It describes not only the creative process and the nature of creative people but also the kind of environment that promotes creativity." Here's an excerpt from Asimov's essay, which is well worth reading in its entirety:

"A person willing to fly in the face of reason, authority, and common sense must be a person of considerable self-assurance. Since he occurs only rarely, he must seem eccentric (in at least that respect) to the rest of us. A person eccentric in one respect is often eccentric in others. Probably more inhibiting than anything else is a feeling of responsibility. The great ideas of the ages have come from people who weren't paid to have great ideas, but were paid to be teachers or patent clerks or petty officials, or were not paid at all. The great ideas came as side issues."
Blackberry

Rumor: Lenovo In Talks To Buy BlackBerry 73

Posted by Soulskill
from the business-segments dept.
BarbaraHudson writes: The CBC, the Financial Post, and The Toronto Sun are all reporting a possible sale of BlackBerry to Lenovo. From the Sun: "BlackBerry shares rose more than 3% on Monday after a news website said Chinese computer maker Lenovo Group might offer to buy the Canadian technology company. Rumors of a Lenovo bid for BlackBerry have swirled many times over the last two years. Senior Lenovo executives at different times have indicated an interest in BlackBerry as a means to strengthen their own handset business. The speculation reached a crescendo in the fall of 2013, when BlackBerry was exploring strategic alternatives. Sources familiar with the situation however, told Reuters last year that the Canadian government had strongly hinted to BlackBerry that any sale to Lenovo would not win the necessary regulatory approvals due to security concerns. Analysts also have said any sale to Lenovo would face regulatory obstacles, but they have suggested that a sale of just BlackBerry's handset business and not its core network infrastructure might just pass muster with regulators."
Businesses

An Algorithm to End the Lines for Ice at Burning Man 342

Posted by timothy
from the that-trick's-not-so-weird dept.
Any gathering of 65,000 people in the desert is going to require some major infrastructure to maintain health and sanity. At Burning Man, some of that infrastructure is devoted to a supply chain for ice. Writes Bennett Haselton, The lines for ice bags at Burning Man could be cut from an hour long at peak times, to about five minutes, by making one small... Well, read the description below of how they do things now, and see if the same suggested change occurs to you. I'm curious whether it's the kind of idea that is more obvious to students of computer science who think algorithmically, or if it's something that could occur to anyone. Read on for the rest; Bennett's idea for better triage may bring to mind a lot of other queuing situations and ways that time spent waiting in line could be more efficiently employed.