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
Your regular reminder we live in a time where this was actually pulled off successfully.
Chemical breakdown of food. Clever. Via Revkin.
If you haven’t seen this, you should. Perspective matters.
Yep. It’s important to remember that all food/agriculture is (at least at some level) both a form of chemistry AND a form of genetic modification. Bananas, blueberries, and eggs are NOT “natural” if we believe that “natural” means “as they would occur in the wild.” Maybe blueberries (though I doubt it). But bananas have been heavily engineered over centuries. As have chickens (and cows and pigs) over millennia.
When you argue against “genetically engineered” foods, you have to realize that you are arguing against agriculture. So you can’t really take a maximalist position.
“According to a study from the University of Washington, the rift between healthy grub and junk food is wider than it’s ever been. Researchers were able to buy 2,000 calories of junk food for $3.52 — that’s an entire day’s caloric intake — where nutritious foods cost them a whopping $36 for the same 2,000 calories.”
So, you know, STFU forever about “it’s cheaper to eat healthy LOL poor people don’t get how money works!”
There’s a pretty big problem with this result: Junk food is more or less defined by the fact it’s incredibly calorie dense with very little additional nutritional value. Therefore, an argument that says “you can buy more calories of junk food than other foods for the same price” is inherently tautological. A more revealing way to do such a study would be to measure the cost of junk food vs. healthy grub via portions. You would probably be forced to narrow the gap between prices, or even swap their relationship entirely. This isn’t just hypothetical, studies have been done that demonstrate this.