“This animation shows the prototype starshade, a giant structure designed to block the glare of stars so that future space telescopes can take pictures of planets.”
(That last GIF is a prototype,..it’s like we’re using the natural mechanics of flower petals for space..so awesome.)
One day this may be used to take the first picture of another Earth.
Today, scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics announced they’ve found evidence of the big bang that they’ve been seeking for decades: gravitational waves in the cosmic microwave background (CMB). The research team at the BICEP2 facility in Antarctica made the discovery, which not only backs up the inflation theory behind the big bang in which the universe expanded rapidly right after its birth, but also will shape our understanding of physics and the origins of the universe for years to come.
Practice is great! But practice alone won’t make you Yo Yo Ma.
NASA plans a robotic mission to search for life on Europa | io9
It looks like it’s finally going to happen, an actual mission to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa — one of the the solar system’s best candidates for hosting alien life.
Yesterday, NASA announced an injection of $17.5 billion from the federal government (down by $1.2 billion from its 2010 peak). Of this, $15 million will be allocated for “pre-formulation” work on a mission to Europa, with plans to make detailed observations from orbit and possibly sample its interior oceans with a robotic probe. Mission details are sparse, but if all goes well, it could be launched by 2025 and arriving in the early 2030s.
This is incredibly exciting. Recent evidence points to a reasonable chance of habitability. Its massive subsurface ocean contains almost twice as much water as found on Earth. The water is kept in liquid state owing to the gravitational forces exerted by Jupiter and the moon’s turbulent global ocean currents. The good news is that a probe may not have to dig very deep to conduct its search for life; the moon’s massive plumes are ejecting water directly onto the surface.
The Guillemot is a seabird that lays its eggs on a bare rock ledge on a cliff face. When an egg is accidentally dislodged, its shape causes it to spin in a tight circle, which prevents it from falling off the ledge into the sea. (Springwatch - BBC)
Can we just take a moment to appreciate how fucking awesome this is?
These eggs no doubt started out like all other avian eggs, but they had the problem of rolling off the cliffs. The eggs that were slightly more oblong tended to roll off the cliffs less, and thus the genes contained in those eggs lived to be passed on. Fast forward a few million years, and BAM tight-circle eggs.
Naturally selected for your viewing pleasure.
Natural selection is a beautiful thing
I think you mean natural sel-EGG-tion.
Scientists have started to study how dogs take emotional cues from human voices. According to the head researcher: "We’d put an experienced dog up in the scanner, and he’d be up there sitting still. Then we’d bring into the room a less experienced dog. And he’d get so jealous! He just wanted to be on the scanner bed like the other dog. It became the place of happiness."
Photos Courtesy of Borbala Ferenczy and Eniko Kubinyi
Diagram adapted from “Voice-Sensitive Regions in the Dog and Human Brain Are Revealed by Comparative fMRI" by Attila Andics et al.
(above: spread of Mongol Empire as indicated by local populations’ DNA)
“By measuring the sizes of different chunks of DNA in modern people, a team of geneticists and statisticians from the U.K. and Germany identified more than 100 major population movements. They saw the spread of Mongol genes across the Mongol empire, the appearance of European genes in Maya and Pima Indians during colonization, and the arrival of Cambodian genes at the fall of the Khmer empire.
"The scientists also made an interactive map where you can explore the ancestry of people around the world. The scientists never needed to consult historians to find evidence of these historical events, which is pretty cool.”
Korean designers Je Sung Park and Woo Jung Kwon have developed an invisible umbrella that will keep you dry by repelling rain. Consisting of a simple plastic stick that creates an artificial wind at the top, the ‘umbrella’ deflects raindrops before they hit you by sucking in air at the bottom. The intensity of this wind-shield can be varied depending on weather condition and number of people sharing the device—the length of the stick is also adjustable.
so it’s basically a force field
Science is amazing
A study of gay men in the US has found fresh evidence that male sexual orientation is influenced by genes. Scientists tested the DNA of 400 gay men and found that genes on at least two chromosomes affected whether a man was gay or straight.
A region of the X chromosome called Xq28 had some impact on men’s sexual behaviour – though scientists have no idea which of the many genes in the region are involved, nor how many lie elsewhere in the genome. Read more
Photograph: Elaine Thompson/AP