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April 4 2015

NASA takes its 'flying saucer' for a test spin


On Tuesday afternoon, just about lunch time, a "flying saucer" was undergoing a spin test in a clean room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The saucer is technically a 15-foot wide, 7,000-pound aerodynamic test vehicle. It is designed to help engineers try out new technologies for landing spacecraft, and someday people, on Mars.


Related: Planetary Society: We Can Afford to Orbit Humans at Mars by 2033

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April 4 2015

Strange 'Hollows' on Mercury Revealed by NASA Probe as Mission End Nears


Mercury, the barren planet closest to the sun, may seem like a dead world, but new images taken by a NASA probe nearing the end of its life reveal the planet may still be undergoing geological activity.

The new images — taken by NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft — show that Mercury has strange features known as "hollows" (irregularly shaped, flat-floored depressions) that are only a few tens of meters deep and no more than a kilometer in diameter, scientists with the mission said.

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April 4 2015

Twin-sunned 'Tatooine' planets may be widespread, say scientists


Earth-like worlds with two suns in their skies, like Luke Skywalker's home planet of Tatooine in the "Star Wars" films, may be widespread throughout the Milky Way galaxy.

Although a number of gaseous exoplanets have already been spotted in two-star systems, many astronomers had thought that rocky, potentially habitable worlds could not take shape in an environment with such complex and chaotic orbital dynamics.

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April 3 2015

Star's birth glimpsed 'in real time'


Astronomers have witnessed a key stage in the birth of a very heavy star, using two radio telescope views of the process taken 18 years apart.

The young star is 4,200 light-years from Earth and appears to be surrounded by a doughnut-shaped cloud of dust.

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April 3 2015

Black holes don’t erase information, scientists say


Shred a document, and you can piece it back together. But send information into a black hole, and it's lost forever. A new study finds that -- contrary to what some physicists have argued for the years -- information is not lost once it has entered a black hole. The research presents explicit calculations showing how information is, in fact, preserved.

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April 3 2015

Why underground moon cities are slightly less implausible now


THE WOODLANDS, Texas — Earth's moon is rife with huge lava tubes – tunnels formed from the lava flow of volcanic eruptions – and new theoretical work suggests that these features could be large enough to house structurally stable lunar cities for future colonists.

Data from NASA's Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission suggests that lava tubes on the moon could have diameters in excess of more than half a mile (1 kilometer).

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April 3 2015

NASA’s Curiosity Eyes Prominent Mineral Veins on Mars


Two-tone mineral veins at a site NASA’s Curiosity rover has reached by climbing a layered Martian mountain offer clues about multiple episodes of fluid movement. These episodes occurred later than the wet environmental conditions that formed lake-bed deposits the rover examined at the mountain’s base.


Alt: Curiosity Has Hit a Martian Mineral Jackpot

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April 3 2015

DNA can't explain all inherited biological traits, research shows


Characteristics passed between generations are not decided solely by DNA, but can be brought about by other material in cells, new research shows.

Scientists studied proteins found in cells, known as histones, which are not part of the genetic code, but act as spools around which DNA is wound. Histones are known to control whether or not genes are switched on.

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April 3 2015

Artificial Sweeteners May Change Our Gut Bacteria in Dangerous Ways


Many of us, particularly those who prefer to eat our cake and look like we have not done so, have a love-hate relationship with artificial sweeteners. These seemingly magical molecules deliver a dulcet taste without its customary caloric punch. We guzzle enormous quantities of these chemicals, mostly in the form of aspartame, sucralose and saccharin, which are used to enliven the flavor of everything from Diet Coke to toothpaste. Yet there are worries. Many suspect that all this sweetness comes at some hidden cost to our health, although science has only pointed at vague links to problems.

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April 3 2015

Can less TV time cut diabetes risk?


For each hour a person spends watching TV daily, his or her risk of developing diabetes increases by as much as 3.4 percent.

In the same study, researchers also report that a well-known lifestyle intervention already proven to increase physical activity levels and decrease weight has now been shown to successfully reduce participants’ time spent sitting and watching television.

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April 3 2015

AI interns: Software already taking jobs from humans


People have talked about robots taking our jobs for ages. Problem is, they already have – we just didn't notice

FORGET Skynet. Hypothetical world-ending artificial intelligence makes headlines, but the hype ignores what's happening right under our noses. Cheap, fast AI is already taking our jobs, we just haven't noticed.


Related: Video games beat interviews to recruit the very best

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April 3 2015

Research: When it Comes to Visual Activities, Video Gamers Learn Faster


Score one for gamers. An experiment at Brown University has found a correlation between people who frequently play video games and their ability to retain learning about two quickly learned visual activities. The results suggest that video game playing not only improves player performance but also builds up the capacity to improve performance.

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April 3 2015

A robot prepared for self-awareness


A year ago, researchers at Bielefeld University showed that their software endowed the walking robot Hector with a simple form of consciousness. Their new research goes one step forward: they have now developed a software architecture that could enable Hector to see himself as others see him. "With this, he would have reflexive consciousness," explains Dr. Holk Cruse, professor at the Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC) at Bielefeld University. The architecture is based on artificial neural networks.

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April 3 2015

Lower-leg exoskeleton could take the work out of walking


The market is undoubtedly there. Country strolls. Visits to museums. Weekend shopping trips. How much easier they would be wearing an unpowered, lower-leg, carbon fibre exoskeleton.

Though cumbersome to say, the device itself is sleek and simple, using only a spring, wire and clutch mounted on a carbon fibre frame to take some of the slog out of bipedal locomotion.

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April 3 2015

Preternatural machines


Robots came to Europe before the dawn of the mechanical age. To a medieval world, they were indistinguishable from magic

In 807 the Abbasid caliph in Baghdad, Harun al-Rashid, sent Charlemagne a gift the like of which had never been seen in the Christian empire: a brass water clock. It chimed the hours by dropping small metal balls into a bowl. Instead of a numbered dial, the clock displayed the time with 12 mechanical horsemen that popped out of small windows, rather like an Advent calendar.

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April 3 2015

The oldest known complaint letter


Most people are not malicious, but that doesn't stop anybody from getting upset. And to try to restore the balance, you might just complain. And how long has this been going on?! A long time. The oldest known complaint letter, and let me emphasise a written complaint letter, goes back 3750 years.

It's not a coincidence that each of the oldest written languages were invented by civilisations that lived along rivers.

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April 3 2015

Shocking Discovery: Egypt's 'Mona Lisa' May Be a Fake


An ancient Egyptian masterpiece, hailed by some scholars as the "Mona Lisa" of Egyptian painting, is in fact a fake created in the 19th century, a researcher says. But the painting may conceal an authentic Pyramid Age piece underneath.

The "Meidum Geese," as modern-day Egyptologists and art historians call it, was supposedly found in 1871 in a tomb located near the Meidum Pyramid, which was built by the pharaoh Snefru (reign 2610-2590 B.C).

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