Physics Today Daily Edition
Ars Technica: Historically, Earth's orbit has been the limit for commercial activity, with an international treaty holding signatory nations responsible for the supervision of all commercial access and use of outer space. Now the US has granted Moon Express, one of the companies competing for Google's Lunar XPrize, approval to send a probe to the Moon, which the company intends to do in 2017. The company applied for the license in April 2015. The approval process, which has not been formalized, included reviews by the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of State, NASA, and the White House, with input from the Department of Defense, the Federal Communications Commission, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. A more formal system will likely need to be developed as other companies, such as SpaceX, are likely to pursue similar licensing.
Nature: Just because a data set has been made public doesn't mean that other researchers can use the data however they please. For example, University of Pennsylvania data scientist Daniel Himmelstein has set up Hetionet, an online resource based on 28 public data sets that shows the known connections between drugs, diseases, and genes . When creating it, Himmelstein contacted the researchers who published the data sets to get permission to reproduce the work publicly. Several never responded or replied in ways that didn't clarify whether he had been granted permission to publish. Generally a fact or a piece of data is not copyrightable, but the European Union and some countries treat data sets in a way that limits republication. In the US, where data sets are not directly protected, it is arguable that the compilation and organization of a data set's facts could have similar protections.
Science: During its orbit of Jupiter every 42 hours, the moon Io takes about two hours to pass through the gas giant's shadow. In that time the temperature on the surface cools from –146 °C to –168 °C. Astronomers have used a ground-based IR telescope and observed that during that period roughly 80% of Io's primarily sulfur dioxide atmosphere turns to frost and settles onto the moon's surface. When Io moves out of Jupiter's shadow, the frost turns back into gas.
The Guardian: On 2 August the American Meteorological Society released its 26th annual State of the Climate report, which is compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with input from hundreds of scientists around the world. The report indicates that 2015 saw record highs for atmospheric and oceanic temperatures, sea levels, and atmospheric carbon dioxide. The annual surface temperature increased 0.1 °C over 2014, and thus the global temperature is now 1 °C warmer than during preindustrial times. The eastern Pacific Ocean, which experienced further warming from El Niño, was 2 °C warmer than the long-term average, and the Arctic was 8 °C over its average. Oceanic warming contributed to a sea level that is about 70 mm higher than the average in 1993, when satellite measurements of sea levels began. The report also pointed to record lows for Arctic maximum sea-ice coverage and a net loss of alpine glacier ice for the 36th consecutive year.
BBC: Earlier this year, the British government established UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to oversee the nine organizations that manage the country's £6 billion ($8 billion) of annual research funding. Former permanent secretary of the Treasury John Kingman was appointed its head. In the wake of the Brexit vote and the impending loss of about £850 million yearly in research funding from the European Union, Kingman says that he wants to strengthen the connections between the UK research funding organizations. At the same time, he says he does not want to undermine the strengths of those organizations, including their close connections with researchers. He says that the UKRI will provide a broad perspective that helps to unite the organizations in their funding goals.
Ars Technica: AR Scorpii was originally classified as a variable M-class star whose brightness varies over a period of 3.5 hours. However, an archive of images revealed additional variability beyond the originally observed periodicity. The star's maximum brightness varied by up to a factor of four. A more careful observation of the star revealed that the star's light alternated between being red-shifted and being blue-shifted over the same 3.5-hour period. The only explanation is the presence of a closely orbiting body roughly one-third as massive as the Sun—a white dwarf. The binary system also produces significantly more IR and radio emissions than would normally be expected. The extra light appears to be the result of photon emissions from extremely fast-moving electrons bombarding the M-class star. Researchers believe that the slowing of the white dwarf's current high rate of rotation may be involved in whipping up the electrons.
New Scientist: Passive invisibility cloaks, which redirect light around objects without needing additional energy, may not be possible for macroscopic objects. Andrea Alù and Francesco Monticone of the University of Texas at Austin have shown that the size of the cloak and the range of wavelengths that it could redirect are inversely proportional. A cloak large enough to cover a person would redirect only a specific color of light, whose wavelength would be narrower than even the best lasers can produce. The researchers say that active cloaks, which use input energy to redirect or reemit light, may still be possible.
Guardian: In 2008, Ian Plimer and Alan Rudge, two members of a UK advocacy group called Global Warming Policy Foundation, which challenges the concept of climate change, accepted a bet proposed at a conference by climate scientist James Annan and climate economist Chris Hope. Annan and Hope offered to bet £1000 on 2015 being warmer than 2008; Plimer and Rudge took the bet—and lost. Some scientists are hoping to make betting on climate change a more common tactic when dealing with climate skeptics. The idea is to challenge climate deniers to support their beliefs with actions and not just words.
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.