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Updated: 1 hour 6 min ago

The diurnal cycle: A bridge between weather and climate

7 October 2016
Our complete understanding of climate and its evolution will require mastery of the 24-hour weather cycle.

Paris climate accord set to enter into force

6 October 2016
Washington Post: For the Paris climate treaty to enter into force, at least 55 countries representing 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions needed to ratify it. That threshold was reached on 5 October with the European Parliament’s vote to join the agreement. “Today is a historic day in the fight to protect our planet for future generations,” said President Obama in an announcement. However, he added that even if every one of the agreement’s targets is met, it will probably be impossible to meet the goal of holding the global average temperature increase to below 2 °C above preindustrial levels. Nevertheless, the agreement should help avert some of the worst climate impacts and spur new investment in renewable energy and other technologies.

Theranos ends clinical work, shifts focus to selling diagnostic device

6 October 2016
Ars Technica: On 5 October Theranos CEO and founder Elizabeth Holmes released an open letter announcing that the troubled blood-testing company was restructuring to focus on selling diagnostic equipment. The company will lay off about 340 employees and close its labs and wellness centers. Theranos had built its reputation on the ability to run a wide variety of tests on a relatively small blood sample, but its Edison device has been shown to be inaccurate and unreliable. In July, federal regulators revoked the company's license to perform clinical lab work.

Blue Origin successfully tests in-flight escape system

6 October 2016

Los Angeles Times: On 5 October Blue Origin launched its New Shepard suborbital rocket for the fifth time. Instead of carrying its payload capsule into space, the spacecraft activated its in-flight escape system at an altitude of nearly 5 km. The ability to separate the capsule from its launch vehicle in the event of booster failure is a requirement for any spacecraft designed to carry passengers, and Blue Origin plans to use New Shepard for space tourism. The capsule successfully separated and deployed its parachutes, while the booster continued to its maximum altitude before safely returning to the launch site.

US seeks to ensure continued moratorium on nuclear tests

6 October 2016
But ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty eludes the Obama administration.

Sauvage, Stoddart, and Feringa win Chemistry Nobel for molecular machines

5 October 2016
The three chemists are honored for building a molecular toolkit of chains, rings, axles, and motors.

Thouless, Haldane, and Kosterlitz share 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics

5 October 2016
The three physicists are honored for theories that incorporate topology into the quantum mechanics of condensed-matter systems.

<em>Cassini</em> spacecraft provides more stunning images of Saturn, including two small moons

4 October 2016
Daily Mail: A new image captured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft shows two of Saturn’s tiny moons, Pan and Atlas. Because Pan orbits closer to Saturn, it travels more quickly, and it now is in the process of overtaking Atlas. The image was taken in visible light by the spacecraft’s narrow-angle camera from a distance of some 5.5 million km at a scale of 34 km per pixel. Besides the two moons, Cassini has sent back other spectacular images, including that of a mysterious glowing spot in Saturn’s B ring. The spot is actually an optical illusion produced when the Sun shines from behind the spacecraft and onto the rings.

Legal battle continues over proposed Thirty Meter Telescope on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea

4 October 2016
New York Times: Astronomers and protesters alike are gearing up for the next round in the battle over the proposed construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea. Rising 10 000 m above the seafloor, Mauna Kea is the world’s tallest mountain and the best stargazing site on Earth. However, its peak is sacred to native Hawaiians. Although 13 other telescopes are already located there, the gigantic 18-story TMT would be the largest structure on the island, and according to its opponents, yet another eyesore despoiling the sacred landscape. Over the past two years, the project has been stalled ever since protesters showed up to put a stop to the groundbreaking ceremony. The next round of hearings is scheduled to start in mid-October. However, to ensure that construction on the telescope begins no later than April 2018, astronomers with the TMT International Observatory organization are also considering other sites, such as in Chile and the Canary Islands.

United Nations plans space mission for 2021

3 October 2016
NPR: The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs is teaming up with the Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) to launch a collaborative space mission in 2021. Through the use of SNC’s Dream Chaser reusable spacecraft, countries that can’t afford their own space program will be given the opportunity to develop and fly scientific experiments for 14-day periods in orbit. Although the project is aimed at developing countries, any UN member state may apply. The plan will allow participants to perform experiments in microgravity and receive the technical support to do so. Most of the funding for the project is expected to come from sponsors, but each participating country will be asked to pay a portion of the mission’s cost.

Nobel in Physiology or Medicine awarded for discovery of mechanisms behind autophagy

3 October 2016
New York Times: The Nobel Prize committee announced on 3 October that Yoshinori Ohsumi is the winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discoveries relating to autophagy. Autophagy is the process in which a cell that is starved of food or is somehow damaged breaks down its nonvital internal components and harvests the stored energy to prolong the cell's life. Autophagy also serves as part of a cell's defense systems against invading viruses and bacteria. In the early 1990s, while at the University of Tokyo, Ohsumi began studying cell degradation in yeast, which led to his discoveries of many of the mechanisms and genes that are involved in the process.

Special relativity helps keep a secret for 24 hours

3 October 2016
Physics-based information security doesn’t always involve quantum mechanics.

AGU study finds gender disparities in its journal process

30 September 2016
Nature: Based on a study that looked at the gender and age of its members from 2013 to the present, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) has found disparities among authors and reviewers in its publication process. Not only do women submit fewer papers than men, but they are also asked to be peer reviewers less often. And the differences were found to extend across all age groups. Nevertheless, when women do submit, they have a higher acceptance rate, says the University of Utah's Jory Lerback, who led the data analysis. To combat such unintended consequences in its scholarly publishing, AGU has been working to diversify its editorial boards and editorial selection committees and to develop training to promote awareness.

D-Wave claims to have built its largest-ever quantum chip

30 September 2016
The Verge: Quantum computing company D-Wave Systems has announced its development of a chip containing 2000 qubits, double the capacity of earlier versions. Not only is it bigger, says Colin Williams, D-Wave’s director of business development, it is also “improved in many other ways.” Although D-Wave has said that its quantum computing system is much faster than conventional computers, that claim has not been definitively proved, according to a 2014 study in Science by Matthias Troyer of ETH Zürich and his colleagues. Troyer says there is no evidence that increasing the number of qubits will make a difference. He adds that there are other promising quantum computing projects in the works by such companies as Microsoft and IBM.

<em>Rosetta</em> probe completes mission by crashing into comet's surface

30 September 2016
BBC: After spending 10 years traveling to comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko and 2 years collecting data, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft has ended its mission with a planned crash landing on the comet’s surface. As it descended, Rosetta continued to capture high-resolution pictures and other measurements until just seconds before the crash. Researchers expect that some of those images will include a few of the many sinkholes that cover the comet’s surface and thus provide a window into the comet’s interior. The Rosetta mission has been deemed an outstanding success, and the data collected should keep researchers busy for decades to come.

United Nations inspires renewed talk about antibiotic resistance

30 September 2016
Journalists are enthusiastic about a UN meeting and declaration, but can words force results?

Director forced to step down after Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory reactor fails

29 September 2016
The world’s most powerful spherical tokamak will be off-line for a year while new magnets are built.

The puzzling success of an empirical model

29 September 2016
Theory explains how the model accounts so well for animals’ locomotion in sand.

How to almost win the Physics Nobel

29 September 2016
Sometimes it’s the scientific pursuit that’s deemed unworthy; sometimes it’s the pursuer.

Atmospheric carbon levels have likely passed 400 ppm threshold permanently

29 September 2016
Climate Central: Throughout the month of September, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels failed to drop below 400 ppm, a significant milestone for Earth’s climate. Although CO2 levels normally fluctuate throughout the year, September is usually the month when they’re at their lowest. Therefore, it is unlikely that CO2 levels will ever drop below 400 ppm again, according to Gavin Schmidt, NASA’s chief climate scientist. Atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations have been rapidly increasing since the Industrial Revolution, and it was only a matter of time before the 400 ppm threshold would be reached. And as carbon levels have risen, so have global temperatures. In fact, 2016 may turn out to be the hottest year on record. Although world leaders are working to reduce carbon emissions following last year’s Paris climate agreement, it may already be too late for some parts of the world that are prone to heat waves, droughts, and flooding.