Tag Archives | Science

A Review of the Best Habitable Planet Candidates

Image: This diagram illustrates how the boundaries of the HZ as defined in the work of Kopparapu et al. vary as a function of star temperature and planet mass. Several potentially habitable extra solar planets are included. Credit: Chester Harman/PHL/NASA/JPL.

Image: This diagram illustrates how the boundaries of the HZ as defined in the work of Kopparapu et al. vary as a function of star temperature and planet mass. Several potentially habitable extra solar planets are included. Credit: Chester Harman/PHL/NASA/JPL.

Paul Gilster writes at Centauri Dreams:

The fascination with finding habitable planets — and perhaps someday, a planet much like Earth — drives media coverage of each new, tantalizing discovery in this direction. We have a number of candidates for habitability, but as Andrew LePage points out in this fine essay, few of these stand up to detailed examination. We’re learning more all the time about how likely worlds of a given size are to be rocky, but much more goes into the mix, as Drew explains. He also points us to several planets that do remain intriguing. LePage is Senior Project Scientist at Visidyne, Inc., and also finds time to maintain Drew ex Machina, where these issues are frequently discussed.

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Man of science, man of faith: AP obit reveals both sides of Charles Townes

Charles Hard Townes (born July 28, 1915) via Wikimedia Commons

Charles Hard Townes (born July 28, 1915)
via Wikimedia Commons

Via Jim Davis at getreligion.com:

Whenever we play a DVD, watch a light show or have a clerk scan our groceries, we may not think of a religious thinker. Yet those modern marvels and many others are possible because of Charles H. Townes, inventor of the laser – and an eloquent believer.

We can thank the Associated Press for its obit reminding us of this man of brilliance and goodwill,who converged both parts of his life as well as he synchronized light beams.

And AP gets to the point right after the lede:

On the tranquil morning of April 26, 1951, Townes scribbled a theory on scrap paper that would lead to the laser, the invention he’s known for and which transformed everyday life and led to other scientific discoveries.

Townes, who was also known for his strong spiritual faith, famously compared that moment to a religious revelation.

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A waste of talent? Making space for autism in engineering

Notoriously difficult to get along with and ruthlessly focused, Isaac Newton is now believed to have been on the autistic spectrum.

Notoriously difficult to get along with and ruthlessly focused, Isaac Newton is now believed to have been on the autistic spectrum.

Via the ENGINEER

What would you think if I told you that there was a group of people within our society that probably contained amongst their members some of the greatest engineers, scientists and inventor’s humanity has ever produced? Amongst its members are likely to be Einstein, Tesla and Newton as well as many of the luminaries that were responsible for the dotcom boom and the explosion of Silicon Valley in the world’s most concentrated area of business wealth. I presume you would, as engineering companies would want a way to identify this group of people and to get them to work for their business if possible. What if I went on to tell you that only 15% of this group actually find full time work as adults? Would you think this was nonsense?

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The Cusp of a Transhumanist Renaissance, or the Eve of Dystopia?

Transhumanist, Zoltan Istvan joins Midwest Real.

When it comes right down to it, we have absolutely no idea what the future will hold. Yet, between 2014’s major advances in AI, VR, AR, quantum computing and longevity science, it sure as hell seems like we’re on the cusp of something huge.

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IMG_6532Will these unprecedented breakthroughs usher in a utopian neo-renaissance? Will technological and medical innovation enable us to live practically forever so that we’re free to pursue our passions all day long? Or, will we find ourselves an Orwellian dystopia plagued by a broken environment, thought control and murderous AI oligarch overlords who’ll invade our minds in an effort to milk us for money and energy as we jump willingly into ultra-plush matrix pods of their design?

Who knows?

Our guest this week, Zoltan Istvan is the author of The Transhumanist Wager. He writes for practically every major technology website (Gizmodo, Huffington Post, Motherboard Wired etc.) He’s the founder of the Transhumanist Party, which aims to draw attention and dollars to cutting-edge science and technology.… Read the rest

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U.S. to Develop DNA Study of One Million People

thierry ehrmann (CC BY 2.0)

thierry ehrmann (CC BY 2.0)

Antonio Regalado via Technology Review:

President Barack Obama is proposing to spend $215 million on a “precision medicine” initiative the centerpiece of which will be a national study involving the health records and DNA of one million volunteers, administration officials said yesterday.Precision medicine refers to treatments tailored to a person’s genetic profile, an idea already transforming how doctors fight cancer and some rare diseases.

The Obama plan, including support for studies of cancer and rare disease, is part of a shift away from “one-size-fits-all” medicine, Jo Handelsman, associate director for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said in a briefing yesterday. She called precision medicine “a game changer that holds the potential to revolutionize how we approach health in this country and around the world.”

The White House said the largest part of the money, $130 million, would go to the National Institutes of Health in order to create a population-scale study of how peoples’ genes, environment, and lifestyle affect their health.

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Shedding Light On 3 Big Lies About Systemic Pesticides

Sean Winters (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Sean Winters (CC BY-SA 2.0)

There are ridiculous inconsistencies being planted in the media, sprouting forth poisoned truth about the honeybees and the systemic pesticides killing them. This beckons the question: to what extend does Big Agriculture influence the way science is researched and reported in order to benefit their corporate agendas and pockets? Or do they sincerely believe they can ‘feed the world’ with this shit?

Recently a friend sent me an article titled Bee Deaths Reversal: As Evidence Points Away From Neonics As Driver, Pressure Builds To Rethink Ban. The wordy title hinting that systemic pesticides are safe seemed suspect, but because the op-ed piece was published in Forbes, a reputable publication, I knew many would read it as bonafide truth. I would have too if I hadn’t studied bees and colony collapse disorder for the past eight years. I am the director of a documentary film called Vanishing of the Bees, narrated by Ellen Page. I owe my life to the bees in many respects.… Read the rest

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If Obama Gets His Way, Sharing This Story Will Soon Be a Felony

Johan Larsson (CC BY 2.0)

Johan Larsson (CC BY 2.0)

Gregory Krieg Via Policy.Mic

On Jan. 20, this website published a story titled, “If This Is Your Password, Change It Immediately.” The article included a list of the 25 personal passwords — “password” and “abc123″ among them — most commonly found in databases of personal account information routinely leaked by hackers. The material came from SplashData, an internet security firm that seeks out vulnerable targets and reports on them to an often endangered public. The list of passwords appeared in various forms on outlets including CBS NewsNPR and the BBC, to name a few.

Later that night, President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address made the case for a new proposal to rewrite and tighten federal cybersecurity laws, so that no “foreign nation” or “hacker” would have the ability to “shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets or invade the privacy of American families.

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Functioning brain tissue grown in 3-D structure

Examples of mature Purkinje cells grown from human embryonic stem cells CALB and L7 are Purkinje-cell specific late markers. GRID2 is a marker for a Purkinje-specific glutamate receptor. LHX5 is a marker for the early Purkinje cells.via RIKEN

Examples of mature Purkinje cells grown from human embryonic stem cells
CALB and L7 are Purkinje-cell specific late markers. GRID2 is a marker for a Purkinje-specific glutamate receptor. LHX5 is a marker for the early Purkinje cells.
via RIKEN

Via RIKEN:

Researchers at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Japan have succeeded in inducing human embryonic stem cells to self-organize into a three-dimensional structure similar to the cerebellum, providing tantalizing clues in the quest to recreate neural structures in the laboratory. One of the primary goals of stem-cell research is to be able to replace damaged body parts with tissues grown from undifferentiated stem cells. For the nervous system, this is a particular challenge because not only do specific neurons need to be generated, but they must also be coaxed into connecting to each other in very specific ways.

RIKEN researchers have taken up this challenge, and the work published in Cell Reports details how sequentially applying several signaling molecules to three-dimensional cultures of human embryotic stem cells prompts the cells to differentiate into functioning cerebellar neurons that self-organize to form the proper dorsal/ventral patterning and multi-layer structure found in the natural developing cerebellum.

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Another State Fights War on Solar and Energy Efficiency

Via Mary Anne Hitt at EcoWatch

Despite poll after poll showing that Americans want more clean energy, Indiana legislators are pushing bills that would reduce energy efficiency and make it harder for Hoosier state residents to go solar, just as the solar industry is getting on its feet in the state.

Last week, Indiana’s Senate Utilities Committee heard from a packed room about its bill that would let utilities set energy efficiency goals. Last year the state decided to end the popular Energizing Indiana efficiency program. Now some in the legislature have created Senate Bill 412, which is very one-sided in favor of utilities who sell electricity and doesn’t protect the average person from monopoly interests.

Energy efficiency is a proven tool to lower electricity bills and save money for people across the state.

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Science for the People!

CC-BY: BSSRS/Wellcome Images

CC-BY: BSSRS/Wellcome Images

There’s a smell in Battersea, south-west London. Today, there are streams of the internet devoted to a whiff of toast commuters notice on the train over the river. It’s something to do with local coffee roasters, apparently. But in the early 1970s, the area was very different economically, and the stink wasn’t nearly so pleasant. The strong stench – described at the time as “like dead bodies” – was colloquially known as “The Battersea Smell”.

There was various speculation about causes. Most likely was that the stench came from one or two local factories – the gin distillers John Watney and Co and the glucose manufacturers Garton Sons and Co. But no one really knew. Moreover, the local council seemed to be actively avoiding trying to find out, and avoiding attempting to do much about it.

As a local paper at the time noted, “We can get to the moon, phone relatives in Australia, perform miracles of surgery but a simple matter like getting rid of a smell seems to baffle everyone.”

Residents were especially annoyed as the local council insisted they use (expensive) smokeless fuel to cut air pollution yet seemed to do nothing about the stink.… Read the rest

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