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Updated: 2 hours 24 min ago

Media coverage of Kentucky "Noah's ark" emphasizes science facts

12 July 2016
Creationist Ken Ham's latest public venture promotes adamant opposition to them.

<em>Solar Impulse 2</em> nears end of around-the-world journey

11 July 2016
BBC: After traveling more than a year and making some 15 stops, the solar-powered aircraft Solar Impulse 2 is about to complete its circumnavigation of the globe. The stops allow André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, the two men piloting the single-seat craft, to take turns flying. On 11 July Borschberg took off from Seville, Spain, to make the plane’s penultimate flight to Cairo, Egypt. Piccard will fly the final leg, returning Solar Impulse to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, where it originally took off in March 2015. The trip has taken longer than planned because during the plane’s record-setting flight over the Pacific Ocean from Japan to Hawaii in June 2015, the plane’s batteries overheated and needed to be repaired.

Reversing time with a jolt

11 July 2016
The rapid disruption of propagating water waves spawns swells that run in rewind.

Pokémon Go draws computer gamers outdoors

11 July 2016
New Scientist: Since 6 July an uncommon number of people have been rushing to spend time outdoors. The reason: the release of Pokémon Go, a free augmented-reality game played on mobile devices. Players walk around the real world in order to hunt virtual Pokémon, which are fictional creatures that can be captured, trained to battle, or traded. Even though the game itself is fairly benign, a few problems have already been reported: injuries to players who got so wrapped up in the game that they didn’t pay attention to where they were going and at least one instance of armed robbers targeting a known Pokémon location. But it is unclear whether the game’s designer, Niantic, a former Google subsidiary, has any larger plan for the game, such as using its data to improve location services.

Launch-ready interplanetary CubeSats just need a lift

8 July 2016

Nature: CubeSats, 10-cm-sided spacecraft often built with off-the-shelf parts, are widely used in low Earth orbit (LEO) for a variety of tasks. Although several CubeSats have been designed for interplanetary missions, however, they are still sitting on Earth, waiting for a ride into space. Generally, the spacecraft piggyback on rockets as secondary or even tertiary payloads. Whereas LEO launches are relatively common, launches into higher orbits or out of Earth orbit are far less frequent. Now NASA and the European Space Agency are planning to include CubeSats on several long-range missions, including technology tests and small probes to the Moon, Mars, asteroids, and Jupiter's moon Europa.

LHC has already produced more than twice as much data in 2016 as in 2015

8 July 2016

Ars Technica: From July to November 2015, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) produced just over 4 inverse femtobarns of data. In its current run, which began in May, the LHC has already produced 10 fb-1. With several more months to go, LHC scientists expect to receive three times as much data this year as last year. The increase in data should help researchers to verify whether the hint of a new particle in last year's data was an actual signal or just noise. The 2016 data haul could also help researchers to statistically rule out a variety of theorized particles and show major flaws in the models that predict them. On a more concrete level, the data should provide significantly more information about already discovered particles that we still don't know much about, such as the Higgs boson.

Bio-inspired swimming robot is powered by light

8 July 2016

New Scientist: A coin-sized robot created from rat tissue has been shown to swim through an obstacle course when exposed to light. The bioengineered stingray, designed by Kevin Kit Parker of Harvard University and coworkers, comprises a tiny gold skeleton covered with a flexible polymer that is layered with about 200 000 rat heart cells. The researchers tweaked the cells to make them light sensitive. By shining different frequencies of light on different sides of the robot, they were able to affect its speed and direction. The ultimate goal, according to Parker, is to better understand how the heart works and one day be able to build one.

Planet found in surprisingly close orbit to three suns

8 July 2016
Los Angeles Times: Thousands of planets have been found to exist in multistar systems. However, what makes the newly discovered triple-star system HD 131399 stand out is the fact that its planet is located so close to its three stars. Because of the complex gravitational forces involved, scientists had assumed that no planet could maintain a stable orbit in such close proximity to so many stars. “This discovery shows us that planets can form or evolve into these almost unstable systems that previously almost seemed like science fiction,” said the University of Arizona's Kevin Wagner, one of the researchers whose paper detailing the discovery appears in Science.

Dark-matter intrigue

7 July 2016
Extra Dimensions: When it comes to the disputed dark-matter detection claim by the DAMA experiment, science is just part of the story.

UK climate advisory committee approves fracking, with conditions

7 July 2016

BBC: The UK's Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has said fracking in the country can go ahead if three conditions are met: Emissions must be strictly limited at all stages of construction, operation, and decommissioning; total UK gas consumption must not increase, which means shale gas must displace imported gas; and shale gas emissions must be included in the UK's already established carbon budgets. The UK government says it already intends to abide by the restrictions, but environmentalists argue that shale gas production will overwhelm the country's attempts to meet its climate change goals. The CCC predicated its decision on a range of projections for gas production, with the most extreme production model predicting 11 million tons of CO2 emissions per year by 2030. That amount is just one-fourth of the country's emissions from agriculture and land-use change. The government will make its final decision on whether to allow fracking—at two sites in Lancashire—by 6 October.

Before failing, Japan's <em>Hitomi</em> satellite returned data on galactic wind

7 July 2016

New Scientist: In March, just over a month after it launched, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Hitomi x-ray telescope suffered a failure that rendered it inoperable. Now the satellite team has released a paper showing that Hitomi was able to collect useful information before it died. Andrew Fabian of the University of Cambridge and his colleagues used Hitomi data to map the flow of plasma away from the Perseus cluster of galaxies and out into intergalactic space. Hitomi's images reveal that the flow is massive, with gusts of plasma larger than the Milky Way. The galactic wind is driven by a supermassive black hole located at the center of the cluster's central galaxy. The black hole creates jets of particles that travel near the speed of light and blow cooler gas out of the cluster.

New satellite to monitor Earth’s carbon emissions

7 July 2016
IEEE Spectrum: On 22 June the Claire satellite was successfully launched by Montreal-based developer GHGSat. It is the first of a planned fleet of such satellites dedicated to the remote sensing of greenhouse gas emissions from industrial sites. Claire, which is equipped with an IR spectrometer and telescopic lensing, will fly around the world taking a series of high-resolution aerial snapshots of thousands of sites. The data it gathers will be used to improve emissions reporting, track industrial efficiency, and provide competitive intelligence, says GHGSat president Stéphane Germain.

New Year’s Eve will last one second longer this year

7 July 2016
Space.com: On 31 December at 23 hours, 59 minutes, and 59 seconds Coordinated Universal Time, one leap second will be added to the world’s official timekeeping system. The reason is to maintain the synchronicity of two types of clocks: atomic clocks, which are based on the vibrations of the cesium atom, and traditional clocks, which are based on Earth’s rotation relative to the Sun. Because Earth’s rotation varies irregularly, the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, the world's official timekeeper, usually applies a leap second whenever needed to keep the difference between the two time systems from exceeding 0.9 second.

A new, exquisitely precise determination of Planck’s constant

7 July 2016
Once the metrology community has settled on a value, the unit of mass will be redefined.

Jordan seeks nuclear technology deal with the US

6 July 2016

Associated Press: Jordan's nuclear energy program is more than a decade old, but the country still relies on fossil fuel imports to provide 98% of its electricity. Khaled Toukan, chairman of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission, says his country is negotiating an agreement with the US for access to nuclear technology such as small modular reactors. Currently, Jordan has a $10 billion deal with Russia for the construction of two large reactors to be built by 2025, but the financing isn't settled. If that deal falls through, Toukan still wants the country to go forward with a deal for smaller reactors, which he says could be used for powering desalination plants. The discussions with the US had previously stalled when Jordan refused to rule out uranium enrichment, which can be used for not only generating electricity but also building nuclear weapons.

Wellcome Trust to publish an open-access online journal

6 July 2016

Science: The Wellcome Trust, a London-based charity that is one of the largest nongovernmental sources of funding for biomedical research, is launching an open-access online journal this fall. Wellcome Open Research will feature the work of researchers who are funded by Wellcome Trust grants, and the charity will also cover publishing costs for the authors. This will be the second time the company has been involved in an open-access journal: In 2012 it partnered with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and Germany's Max Planck Society to launch eLife. Wellcome Open Research will function more like the preprint server arXiv than a traditional journal, with authors encouraged to post anything from a full paper to just a data set. Following publication, a publicly selected group of peer reviewers will evaluate and comment on the work. The site will be managed by Science Navigation Group's F1000 publishing service.

Increase in Antarctic sea ice does not contradict global warming

6 July 2016

Washington Post: Even though the area of sea ice surrounding Antarctica has been increasing since 2000 and reached an all-time high in 2014, Earth is still undergoing climate change, according to a recent study in Nature Geoscience. The reason for the increasing Antarctic sea ice is natural climate variability, say Gerald Meehl of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, and his colleagues. Antarctic sea ice is affected by the interaction of several meteorological phenomena, such as the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO) and the Amundsen Sea Low, a climatological low-pressure system off the Antarctic coast. Because the IPO has been in its negative phase, it has been causing the Pacific’s surface to cool, the Amundsen Sea Low to deepen, and local winds to increase; those forces together have resulted in sea ice being pushed away from the Antarctic continent and new ice forming in the gaps. Now, however, the IPO has shifted, and Meehl says Antarctic sea ice will probably “stop growing, maybe start shrinking a little bit.”

UK researchers already feeling impact of Brexit

6 July 2016
BBC: The future of British research is up in the air following the recent decision by the UK to quit the European Union. Although leaving the EU does not necessarily mean leaving its research funding system, uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the ultimate consequences is already causing problems. Researchers in other European countries are asking that some UK researchers withdraw their applications for funding on certain projects. The disruption could affect current and future collaborations, which are critical for the advancement of cutting-edge research.

Optimizing solar cells

6 July 2016
New materials and innovative synthesis methods address problems with solar cell efficiency and cost.

Curbing fraud or restraining speech?

5 July 2016
Reporters and commentators engage the impassioned legal struggle over Exxon and climate.

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