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Updated: 4 hours 12 min ago

Clinton says "I believe in science" in acceptance speech

29 July 2016

Geekwire: In Hillary Clinton's nomination acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, she stated that when it comes to climate change she accepts the scientific consensus. That puts her in direct contrast to Donald Trump, the Republican candidate, who has in the past called global warming a hoax and a money-making industry. Science is rarely mentioned in political campaigns—Trump didn't use the word at all in his own acceptance speech—so Clinton's "I believe in science" line resulted in a lot of plaudits from scientific commentators on social media. Clinton also shared her belief that shifting to clean energy will help bolster the US economy and drive technology and innovation.

Nearly blind astronomer opens observatory for tourists

29 July 2016
Tim Doucette promotes the dark skies of Nova Scotia.

UK prime minister voices commitment to science in wake of Brexit

29 July 2016
BBC: Newly elected prime minister Theresa May is wasting no time in addressing the concerns of scientists and researchers over the recent vote by the UK to leave the European Union. Through its association with the EU, the UK has been receiving about £850 million ($1 billion) in research funding each year, and some 30 000 EU scientists are working at UK universities. Since the Brexit vote, that funding will most likely be discontinued, and it has already been reported that grant applications by UK scientists for EU funds are being refused and that EU scientists have declined to accept posts in the UK. To address scientists' concerns over the Brexit decision, May sent a letter to Paul Nurse, director of the Francis Crick Institute in London and former president of the Royal Society, in which she reaffirmed the UK government's commitment to doing all it can to support scientists and scientific research funding.

Dedicated conference still can't confirm a complex proof's correctness

29 July 2016
BBC: In 2012, Shinichi Mochizuki of Kyoto University in Japan published a proof of the abc conjecture—a theoretical relationship between prime numbers. The proof is so complex that it still hasn't been verified by other mathematicians. In December, mathematicians organized a conference to discuss the proof, but Mochizuki did not attend and little progress was made. That led to last week's conference at Kyoto University, with Mochizuki as the main speaker. The attendees now say they have a better understanding of Mochizuki's work but still can't determine whether the proof is correct or not.

Space travel may increase the risk of heart disease, says study

29 July 2016
Washington Post: According to a recent study in Scientific Reports, the mortality rate from cardiovascular disease among Apollo lunar astronauts is four to five times higher than for astronauts who flew only in low-Earth orbit or never ventured into space at all. However, the study group was exceptionally small because only about two dozen people have ever left Earth orbit. In fact, the only astronauts who have left Earth's protective magnetosphere are those who went to the Moon. Three of them have died of heart disease: Neil Armstrong, Ron Evans, and James Irwin. Although one of the study's authors, Michael Delp of Florida State University, acknowledges that no definitive conclusions can be drawn because the data set is so small, he says the subject warrants further research. As future crewed missions to the Moon and beyond are being contemplated, it is important to better understand the potential health risks associated with space travel, including prolonged exposure to ionizing radiation.

Creating a career to create careers

29 July 2016
Kim Nilsson parlayed her experience in astronomy into a business in data science boot camps.

News publications place "A kilobyte rewritable atomic memory" within physics history

29 July 2016

So do physicists, who link a nanotechnology breakthrough to their late colleague Richard Feynman’s vision from a half century ago.

Greenland glacier melt documented through archival photos and records

28 July 2016
Nature: Archival photographs, sketches, and temperature measurements are being used by researchers to better understand the effects of climate change on Greenland’s ice sheet and glaciers. Conducting historical glacier research, Anders Bjørk at the Natural History Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen is a real-life Indiana Jones. Not only does he sift through old photographs, maps, and other documents in castles and museums, but he has also embarked on numerous epic sea voyages. He and his colleagues are now comparing the historic weather data with modern satellite data to see how Greenland's glaciers have changed over the past 80 years. Among what they have learned so far is that glaciers are more sensitive to periods of warming and cooling than previously thought and that not all glaciers respond to warming in the same way.

Pacific tectonic plate may have grown from a single point

28 July 2016
Science News: The largest of Earth’s tectonic plates may actually have started out as the smallest, according to a new study in Science Advances. Unlike the other modern plates, which formed when ancient plates split into two, the Pacific Plate may have grown from a single point located at the junction of three older plates. Lydian Boschman of Utrecht University in the Netherlands and her colleagues say that at some time one of the three plates overlapped another one, causing a piece to break off and get pushed under the rest. That event created the three-way junction, around which the plates proceeded to glide past each other in a pinwheel motion rather than pull apart. As the gap widened, molten rock flowed up into the void, and the plate formed and grew.

A path to better lithium-ion battery performance

28 July 2016
Engineering electrode structures straightens the tortuous route that ions must travel.

NOAA takes first step toward developing new global weather model

28 July 2016
Washington Post: The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has announced that it is updating its Global Forecast System (GFS) weather model. The new GFS will feature the FV3 dynamic core created by NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory. The FV3 was chosen over other candidates primarily because of its computational efficiency, which is essential for running all the necessary weather and climate models. NOAA says the goals are to improve forecast accuracy beyond 8–10 days, to better model forecasts of hurricanes and their intensity, and to extend weather forecasts to 14 days in advance and extreme event forecasts to 3–4 weeks in advance. Now that a core has been selected, the next steps are to test and improve the weather-predicting algorithms and develop a method to assimilate all the data from satellites, weather balloons, and ground-based observations.

Atmosphere over Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is surprisingly hot

28 July 2016
New York Times: Despite Jupiter’s distance from the Sun, its upper atmosphere is extremely hot, several hundreds of degrees hotter than simulations have predicted—and the atmosphere above the planet's Great Red Spot is even hotter. To try to determine where the heat is coming from, James O’Donoghue of Boston University and his colleagues used the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility in Hawaii to examine the emissions of a particular hydrogen ion that is abundant in Jupiter's atmosphere. Based on the emissions’ brightness, the researchers say the heat is probably coming from below the Great Red Spot, perhaps in the form of acoustic or gravity waves that rise and crash in the upper atmosphere.

Royal Society president calls for UK to guarantee continued funding for EU-funded research

27 July 2016
BBC: In the wake of the Brexit referendum, the head of the Royal Society says that he wants the British government to underwrite funding for UK-based researchers who are applying for EU research grants. In an interview, Venki Ramakrishnan said that some UK researchers are already being excluded from EU collaborations because of uncertainty over the effect of Brexit on the researchers' status and grant funding. To avoid that loss of access, Ramakrishnan said the UK should guarantee the continuation of any funding that UK-based researchers receive from the EU for the duration of the grant.

Lawsuit alleges sex discrimination in university physics lab

27 July 2016
Science: An undergraduate student at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio recently filed a lawsuit over alleged sex-based segregation in the school's science courses. Casey Helmicki says that in the physics course she took in the fall of 2015, she was told that lab groups are deliberately arranged to group women students together because “women shouldn’t be working with men in science.” The professor for the course, Larry Bortner, declined to comment on the suit. But he has stated in emails that he does instruct his lab assistants to try to arrange the women students in predominantly female groups, because studies have shown that “females do better in small lab groups (three or four) that contain more females than males.” Helmicki counters, however, that such gender discrimination violates Title IX of the US Education Amendments of 1972.

3D mapping of Ceres reveals remnants of large craters

27 July 2016
New Scientist: Simulations of the history of Ceres suggest that the dwarf planet should have 10 to 15 impact craters larger than 400 km across. Yet early images from NASA's Dawn spacecraft, which has been in orbit around Ceres since March 2015, did not reveal any such craters. Now, Simone Marchi of the Southwest Research Institute in Colorado and his colleagues have created a three-dimensional model of Ceres from high-resolution images taken by Dawn. The model reveals large depressions on the surface of Ceres that Marchi and his team believe are the remnants of the expected craters. They suggest that Ceres's unusual internal structure could be the reason for the smoothing. It is thought that Ceres's surface hides a layer of mud that allows the outer layer to shift and relax, which Marchi's team says would eliminate the telltale signs of large craters.

Motion of stars in ultradiffuse galaxy measured for first time

27 July 2016
Nature: Since the discovery last year of 47 extremely dim galaxies in the Coma cluster, hundreds more have been observed there and elsewhere. Such ultradiffuse galaxies (UDGs) are thought to be as large as the Milky Way but emit much less light. Now Pieter van Dokkum of Yale University and Roberto Abraham of the University of Toronto in Canada and their colleagues have focused on one of the largest and brightest of the UDGs, called Dragonfly 44. From measurements of the galaxy’s spectral line, the researchers have been able to determine that Dragonfly 44's stars are moving very quickly relative to one another, at some 47 km/s, which indicates the galaxy is massive, perhaps a trillion times as massive as the Sun. Despite what has been learned so far about UDGs, their origin remains a mystery.

Transistors may stop shrinking in five years

26 July 2016

IEEE Spectrum: Moore's law describes a historical trend concerning the density of transistors on computer chips, which has been doubling roughly every two years since the 1970s. The primary driver has been the continuing reduction in transistor size. However, a new analysis of transistor technologies suggests that by 2021 manufacturers will no longer find it economically viable to decrease the dimensions of transistors any further. The analysis, included in the 2015 International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors, suggests that manufacturers will probably continue to be able to increase transistor density by layering transistors vertically.

Analysis shows droughts shut down Amazon carbon sink

26 July 2016

BBC: The Amazon basin is one of the world's largest carbon reservoirs, with the plants there holding roughly 17% of Earth's vegetation-stored carbon. A new study has revealed, however, that two recent droughts have adversely affected the basin's ability to absorb carbon. According to coauthor Ted Feldpausch of the University of Exeter, UK, during one of the droughts, in 2010, the rate of vegetation mortality increased and the growth rate slowed, which resulted in the region releasing more carbon than it was taking in. In nondrought years, the region absorbs hundreds of millions more tons of carbon than it loses.

Last universal common ancestor of all living things may have sprung from deep-sea vents

26 July 2016
New York Times: Three principal domains of life have been identified on Earth: bacteria, archaea, and eukaryotes. Of those, bacteria and archaea are thought to have originated first. By looking at the protein-coding genes of bacteria and archaea, William Martin of Heinrich Heine University in Germany and his colleagues now say they have identified the ancient organism from which both are descended. Called Luca, the last universal common ancestor may have lived about 4 billion years ago and appears to have developed in the intensely hot deep-sea vents where magma erupts through the ocean floor. Martin’s further claim that Luca may have been very close to the origin of life itself, however, has provoked controversy because of the organism's apparent ability to synthesize proteins, generally considered to be a fairly complex task.

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