Physics Today Daily Edition
New Scientist: Venus is extremely hot, lacks liquid water, and has a toxic atmosphere. Yet a new simulation suggests that as recently as 1 billion to 2 billion years ago, the planet might have been habitable. David Grinspoon of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, and his colleagues used a variation of a simulation of Earth's climate to create several possible models of the evolution of Venus's climate. The results suggest that an early Venus would have been quite similar to Earth at around the same time that life first evolved on our planet. However, a period of extreme volcanism 715 million years ago turned Venus into the searing planet it is today.
Nature: Six months ago, a reorganization of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) eliminated a large number of climate science positions. But today, science minister Greg Hunt announced that CSIRO would reprioritize basic climate science by creating 15 new jobs and would receive an additional Aus$37 million ($28 million) over the next 10 years. The change in policy comes in the wake of federal elections in July that nearly resulted in a hung parliament and forced Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to make concessions and alliances to maintain his seat. Many Australian climate researchers think that the about-face is too little, too late and that hiring 15 climate researchers won't offset the many more who still stand to lose their jobs.
The Verge: This morning, China officially confirmed that its Yutu, or "jade rabbit," lunar rover is no longer operating. Launched in March 2013 as part of China's Chang'e 3 mission, Yutu proved to be the country's first successful lunar rover. Planned to last just 3 months, it instead held on for 31 months, becoming the longest-operating lunar rover. Communications with the rover were briefly lost in February 2014 after one of its shutdowns during the lunar night, a 14-day period in which temperatures drop as low as –183 °C. When communications were reestablished, it was confirmed that the rover had lost the ability to move, and Yutu has remained stationary ever since. Among the new information learned about the Moon, Yutu's instruments have revealed that there are nine distinct layers of rock beneath the lunar surface and that the rover's landing site differs geologically from the Apollo landing sites.
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.