Compare cell phone plans using Wirefly's innovative plan comparison tool ×
ISS

NASA Astronaut Jeff Williams Sets New US Space Endurance Record With 521 Days (cbsnews.com) 43

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CBS News: Space station commander Jeff Williams set a new U.S. space endurance record Wednesday, his 521st day in orbit over four missions, eclipsing the 520-day record set earlier this year by astronaut Scott Kelly at the end of his nearly one-year stay aboard the lab complex. Williams now moves up to 17th on the list of the world's most experienced astronauts and cosmonauts. The overall record is held by cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, who logged 878 days in orbit over five missions. Williams, Soyuz TMA-20M commander Alexey Ovchinin and flight engineer Oleg Skripochka were launched to the space station March 18. They plan to return to Earth Sept. 6 (U.S. time), landing in Kazakhstan to close out a 172-day mission. At landing, Williams will have logged 534 days aloft, moving him up to 14th on the space endurance list. Williams first flew in space in 2000 aboard the shuttle Atlantis, the third shuttle flight devoted to station assembly. He served as a flight engineer aboard the station in 2006 and completed a second long-duration stay in 2010, serving as a flight engineer and then commander of Expedition 22. "I wanted to congratulate you on passing me up here in total number of days in space," Kelly radioed Williams Wednesday. "It's great to see another record broken. [...] But I do have one question for you. And my question is, do you have another 190 days in you?" Kelly was referring to the time Williams' current mission would have to be extended to equal Kelly's U.S. single-flight record. Williams laughed, saying "190 days. That question's not for me, that's for my wife!"
Earth

Global Warming Started 180 Years Ago Near Beginning of Industrial Revolution, Says Study (smh.com.au) 571

New research led by scientists at the Australian National University's Research School of Earth suggests that humans first started to significantly change the climate in the 1830s, near the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The findings have been published in the journal Nature, and "were based on natural records of climate variation in the world's oceans and continents, including those found in corals, ice cores, tree rings and the changing chemistry of stalagmites in caves." Sydney Morning Herald reports: "Nerilie Abram, another of the lead authors and an associate professor at the Australian National University's Research School of Earth Sciences, said greenhouse gas levels rose from about 280 parts per million in the 1830s to about 295 ppm by the end of that century. They now exceed 400 ppm. Understanding how humans were already altering the composition of the atmosphere through the 19th century means the warming is closer to the 1.5 to 2 degrees target agreed at last year's Paris climate summit than most people realize." "It was one of those moments where science really surprised us," says Abram. "But the results were clear. The climate warming we are witnessing today started about 180 years ago."
Desktops (Apple)

Apple Under Tim Cook: More Socially Responsible, Less Visionary (cnn.com) 148

Let's talk about Apple, unarguably one of the most remarkable companies on the face of the earth. (Remarkable doesn't necessarily mean great -- it just means that the company is something worth making a remark). You can like it, or hate it, but you can simply not ignore Apple. But what's the occasion, you ask? It's been five years since Tim Cook took over as Apple CEO. (Editor's note: auto-playing video ahead, which may annoy you) Under his leadership, Apple has grown to become the world's most successful company, doubling the stock price and registering a staggering 84 percent growth in its net worth. Media outlets are abuzz with articles, analysis, and over-analysis of Tim Cook's Apple today. Some excerpts from a CNN article: Apple's culture has changed noticeably, both for the better and the worse. [...] If Jobs put a dent in the universe through Apple's coveted products, Cook is making his mark by highlighting the importance of social efforts: LGBT rights, philanthropy, corporate diversity, renewable energy and improving manufacturing conditions abroad. Under Cook's leadership, Apple finally began matching charitable contributions from employees, which had long been a sore spot for staff. Apple had 110,000 full-time employees as of the end of September 2015, nearly doubling from the 60,400 employees it reported having in September 2011, shortly after Cook took over, according to annual filings with the SEC. [...] There's now a feeling among some Apple insiders that the company is just running the same product playbook that Jobs created in his final years at the helm. "For four or five years, the playbook is the same that's been done," says Amit Sharma, a former Apple exec on the online store team. But, he adds, "just because everybody is looking for new doesn't mean it's not working."
Earth

Earth-Like Planet, With Ambitious Life Possibility, Found Orbiting the Star Next Door (nature.com) 212

There's another Earth out there. For real, this time. Astronomers announced on Wednesday that they had detected a planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, the closest neighbor to our solar system. Intriguingly, the planet is in the star's "Goldilocks zone," they said, a place that hints that it may not be too hot nor too cold. Which in turn means that liquid water could exist at the surface, and by extension, it raises the possibility of life. Nature reports:"The search for life starts now," says Guillem Anglada-Escude, an astronomer at Queen Mary University of London and leader of the team that made the discovery. Humanity's first chance to explore this nearby world may come from the recently announced Breakthrough Starshot initiative, which plans to build fleets of tiny laser-propelled interstellar probes in the coming decades. Travelling at 20% of the speed of light, they would take about 20 years to cover the 1.3 parsecs from Earth to Proxima Centauri. Proxima's planet is at least 1.3 times the mass of Earth. The planet orbits its red-dwarf star -- much smaller and dimmer than the Sun -- every 11.2 days. "If you tried to pick the type of planet you'd most want around the type of star you'd most want, it would be this," says David Kipping, an astronomer at Columbia University in New York City. "It's thrilling."Much about the planet is still unknown. Astronomers have some ideas about its size and distance from its parent star. Scientists say they are working off computer models that offer mere hints of what's possible. Also, there's no picture available for this planet as of yet.
Space

NASA Reconnects With 'Lost' STEREO-B Satellite (businessinsider.com) 107

NASA lost contact with its STEREO-B spacecraft twenty-two months ago during a routine 72-hour test. On Sunday, the spacecraft reconnected with NASA roughly 189 million miles away from Earth. While that would seem like a cause for celebration, "the very hard and scary work is just the beginning, says Stereo project scientist Joe Gurman, as the agency has to turn on the computer to learn more about the current state of the spacecraft -- a process that may make the craft lose contact with them again. Slashdot user bongey writes: NASA may have only two minutes or less to fix a STEREO-B satellite before the computer causes it to lose contact again. NASA lost contact with their STEREO-B satellite nearly twenty-two months ago when performing a routine test. NASA scientists are afraid to turn on the computer at this point because it may cause them to lose contact again. A more detailed technical summary can be found here. "We have something like two minutes between when STEREO-B receives the command to boot up one of its computers and when it starts doing what we don't want it to do," Gurman said. Business Insider writes, "Making matters worse, it takes about 20 seconds to send commands to the spacecraft -- a data rate that makes a dial-up modem seem lightning fast."
Mars

NanoRacks Plans To Turn Used Rocket Fuel Tanks Into Space Habitats (ieee.org) 127

An anonymous reader writes from a report via IEEE Spectrum: A couple of weeks ago NASA announced it has committed $65 million to six companies over the course of two years for the purpose of developing and testing deep-space habitats that could be used for future missions to Mars. One of the six companies, called NanoRacks, is attempting to take empty fuel tanks from the upper stages of rockets and turn them into space habitats on-orbit. IEEE Spectrum reports: "A rocket like the the Atlas V, which can deliver payloads of nearly 19,000 kg to low Earth orbit, consists of three primary pieces: on the bottom, you've got the first stage booster, which consists of a huge engine and some big tanks holding kerosene fuel and oxidizer. Above that, there's the second stage, which consists of one or two smaller engines, a big tank for storing liquid hydrogen fuel, and a smaller tank for oxidizer. The payload, which is what all of the fuss is about, sits on top. The first stage launches the rocket off of the pad and continues firing for about four minutes. Meanwhile, the second stage fires up its own engine (or engines) to boost the payload the rest of the way into orbit. On the Atlas V, the second stage is called Centaur. Once Centaur gets its payload where it needs to go, it separates, and then suicides down into Earth's atmosphere. Getting a payload into space is so expensive because you have to build up this huge and complicated rocket, with engines and guidance systems and fuel tanks and stuff, and then you basically use it for like 15 minutes and throw it all away. But what about the second stage? You've got a whole bunch of hardware that made it to orbit, and when getting stuff to orbit costs something like $2,500 per kilogram, you then tell it to go it burn itself up in the atmosphere, because otherwise it's just useless space junk." NanoRacks thinks this is wasteful, so they want to turn these tanks into deep space habitats. IEEE notes that the hydrogen fuel tank on a Centaur upper stage has a diameter of over 4 meters, and an interior volume of 54 cubic meters, while the inflatable BEAM module that arrived at the ISS earlier this year has an interior volume of 16 cubic meters. For more details, IEEE Spectrum spoke with Jeff Manber, CEO of NanoRacks, and Mike Johnson, NanoRacks' Chief Designer. You can read their responses here.
Earth

Every Month This Year Has Been the Hottest In Recorded History (vice.com) 410

Slashdot reader iONiUM quotes an article from Vice that calls attention to the fact that record-setting temperatures in July are just part of the story: On Wednesday, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that July was the hottest month ever recorded on our planet, since modern record-keeping began in 1880. NASA has reached the same conclusion. July smashed all previous records... "We should be absolutely concerned," [NOAA climatologist] Sanchez-Lugo said. "We need to look at ways to adapt and mitigate. If we don't, temperatures will continue to increase"...

But the truth is that record-breaking temperatures, month after month, year after year, are starting to look less like an exception, more like the norm.

In fact, CityLab reports that the earth has now experienced 14 consecutive months of unprecedented hotness. Although July stands out, Vice notes that "each consecutive month in 2016 has broken its own previous record (May was the hottest May, April the hottest April, etc.)..."
Bitcoin

Eleven Reasons To Be Excited About The Future of Technology (medium.com) 282

Chris Dixon, an American internet entrepreneur and investor in a range of tech and media companies including Kickstarter and Foursquare has written an essay on Medium highlighting some of the reasons why we should be excited about the future of technology. The reasons he has listed are as follows: 1. Self-Driving Cars: Self-driving cars exist today that are safer than human-driven cars in most driving conditions. Over the next 3-5 years they'll get even safer, and will begin to go mainstream.
2. Clean Energy: Attempts to fight climate change by reducing the demand for energy haven't worked. Fortunately, scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs have been working hard on the supply side to make clean energy convenient and cost-effective.
3. Virtual and Augmented Reality: Computer processors only recently became fast enough to power comfortable and convincing virtual and augmented reality experiences. Companies like Facebook, Google, Apple, and Microsoft are investing billions of dollars to make VR and AR more immersive, comfortable, and affordable.
4. Drones and Flying Cars: GPS started out as a military technology but is now used to hail taxis, get mapping directions, and hunt Pokemon. Likewise, drones started out as a military technology, but are increasingly being used for a wide range of consumer and commercial applications.
5. Artificial Intelligence: Artificial intelligence has made rapid advances in the last decade, due to new algorithms and massive increases in data collection and computing power.
6. Pocket Supercomputers for Everyone: By 2020, 80% of adults on earth will have an internet-connected smartphone. An iPhone 6 has about 2 billion transistors, roughly 625 times more transistors than a 1995 Intel Pentium computer. Today's smartphones are what used to be considered supercomputers.
7. Cryptocurrencies and Blockchains: Protocols are the plumbing of the internet. Most of the protocols we use today were developed decades ago by academia and government. Since then, protocol development mostly stopped as energy shifted to developing proprietary systems like social networks and messaging apps. Cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies are changing this by providing a new business model for internet protocols. This year alone, hundreds of millions of dollars were raised for a broad range of innovative blockchain-based protocols.
8. High-Quality Online Education: While college tuition skyrockets, anyone with a smartphone can study almost any topic online, accessing educational content that is mostly free and increasingly high-quality.
9. Better Food through Science: Earth is running out of farmable land and fresh water. This is partly because our food production systems are incredibly inefficient. It takes an astounding 1799 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef. Fortunately, a variety of new technologies are being developed to improve our food system.
10. Computerized Medicine: Until recently, computers have only been at the periphery of medicine, used primarily for research and record keeping. Today, the combination of computer science and medicine is leading to a variety of breakthroughs.
11. A New Space Age: Since the beginning of the space age in the 1950s, the vast majority of space funding has come from governments. But that funding has been in decline: for example, NASA's budget dropped from about 4.5% of the federal budget in the 1960s to about 0.5% of the federal budget today.

Earth

NASA: July 2016 Was Earth's Warmest Month On Record (weather.com) 270

mdsolar quotes a report from The Weather Channel: Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), operated by the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), calculated the global average July temperature was nearly one-fifth of a degree Celsius higher than previous July temperature records set in 2015 and in 2009. July was also 0.55 degrees Celsius higher than the July average for 1981-2010. Compared to the July average, the south-central part of the United States including Texas and into northern Mexico were the most anomalously warm for North America. Globally, portions of western Russia and the Southern Ocean were warmest compared to average. In Russia, fires and an anthrax outbreak have been blamed on warmer than average temperatures. Each of the last 12 months has been the warmest on record for their respective months. This is due to a combination of global climate variability and human activity according to C3S. July is typically the warmest month of the year globally because the Northern Hemisphere has more land masses than the Southern Hemisphere. (NASA GISS Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP) confirms today.)
Space

Astronomers To Announce Discovery of a Nearby 'Earth-Like' Planet (seeker.com) 344

astroengine quotes a report from Seeker: Scientists are preparing to unveil a new planet in our galactic neighborhood which is "believed to be Earth-like" and orbits its star at a distance that could favor life, German weekly Der Spiegel reported Friday. The exoplanet orbits a well-investigated star called Proxima Centauri, part of the Alpha Centauri star system, the magazine said, quoting anonymous sources.

"The still nameless planet is believed to be Earth-like and orbits at a distance to Proxima Centauri that could allow it to have liquid water on its surface -- an important requirement for the emergence of life," said the magazine.

It's orbiting our sun's nearest neighboring star -- just 4.25 light years away -- meaning it could someday be considered for the world's first interstellar mission.
Space

Fourth SpaceX Rocket Successfully Landed on A Drone Ship (theverge.com) 71

Saturday a SpaceX rocket completed the company's fourth successful landing at sea (watched by over 100,000 viewers on YouTube and Flickr). Saturday's landing means Elon Musk's company has now recovered more than half the rockets they've launched. An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes Saturday's report from The Verge: Tonight's landing was particularly challenging for SpaceX... The Falcon 9 had to carry its onboard satellite -- called JCSAT-16 -- into...a highly elliptical orbit that takes the satellite 20,000 miles out beyond Earth's surface. Getting to GTO requires a lot of speed and uses up a lot of fuel during take off, more so than getting to lower Earth orbit. That makes things difficult for the rocket landing afterward...there's less fuel leftover for the vehicle to reignite its engines and perform the necessary landing maneuvers.

CEO Elon Musk said the company is aiming to launch its first landed rocket sometime this fall...SpaceX's president, Gwynne Shotwell, estimates that reusing these landed Falcon 9 vehicles will lead to a 30 percent reduction in launch costs.

SpaceX named their drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You."
Space

Maybe There's No Life in Space Because We're Too Early 250

Long-time Slashdot reader sehlat shares "a highly accessible summary" of a new theory about why we haven't yet find life on other planets -- that "we're not latecomers, but very, very early." From Lab News: The universe is 13.8 billion years old, with Earth forming less than five billion years ago. One school of thought among scientists is that there is life billions of years older than us in space. But this recent study in the Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics argues otherwise... "We find that the chance of life grows much higher in the distant future..."

Stars larger than approximately three times the Sun's mass will perish before life has a chance to evolve... The smallest stars weigh less than a tenth as much as the sun and will glow for 10 trillion years, meaning life has lot of time to begin on those planets orbiting them in the 'habitable zone'. The probability of life increases over time so the chance of life is many times higher in the distant future than now.

The paper ultimately concludes that life "is most likely to exist near 0.1 solar-mass stars ten trillion years from now."
The Military

How The Navy Tried To Turn Sharks into Torpedos (undark.org) 60

Long-time Slashdot reader v3rgEz writes: Documents recently declassified show one of the odder experimental weapons developed after World War II: Weaponized sharks. Guided by sharp electric shocks, the sharks were trained to deliver explosive payloads -- essentially turning them into living, breathing, remote-controlled torpedoes that could be put to use in the Pacific Theater.
Following years of research on "shark repellent," the Navy spent 13 years building a special head gear for sharks which sensed the shark's direction and tried to deliver shocks if the sharks strayed off-course. The journalist who tracked down details of "Project Headgear" published the recently-declassified information on MIT's journalism site Undark, noting that "The shark wasn't so much a 'torpedo' as a suicide bomber... "
NASA

Venus May Have Been Habitable, Says NASA (sciencedaily.com) 211

EzInKy writes: Science Daily has an article speculating that Venus may have been habitable which is suggested by NASA climate modeling, which proposes that Venus may have had a shallow liquid-water ocean and habitable surface temperatures for up to two billion years of its early history. Talk about global climate change run amok. Venus may represent a near Earth example of what is in store for the future of our world if we don't make it a number one priority to address. Science Daily reports: "Venus today is a hellish world. It has a crushing carbon dioxide atmosphere 90 times as thick as Earth's. There is almost no water vapor. Temperatures reach 864 degrees Fahrenheit (462 degrees Celsius) at its surface. Scientists have long theorized that Venus formed out of ingredients similar to Earth's, but followed a different evolutionary path. Measurements by NASA's Pioneer mission to Venus in the 1980s first suggested Venus originally may have had an ocean. However, Venus is closer to the sun than Earth and receives far more sunlight. As a result, the planet's early ocean evaporated, water-vapor molecules were broken apart by ultraviolet radiation, and hydrogen escaped to space. With no water left on the surface, carbon dioxide built up in the atmosphere, leading to a so-called runaway greenhouse effect that created present conditions."
Earth

Perseid Meteor Shower Peaks Tonight With Up To 200 Meteors Per Hour (latimes.com) 62

The Perseid meteor shower happens ever year in August, but this year it will be especially spectacular with twice as many shooting stars streaking across the night sky. Los Angeles Times reports: "In past years, stargazers would have seen up to one meteor each minute, on average, in a very dark sky. But this year, there's even more reason to stay up late or crawl out of bed in the middle of the night. 'We're expecting 160 to 200 meteors per hour,' said Bill Cooke, head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office. This year's 'outburst' of shooting stars was set into motion more than a year ago, when Jupiter passed closer than usual to the stream of dusty debris left in the wake of the comet Swift-Tuttle. Jupiter's gravity field tugged a large clump of the tiny particles closer to Earth's eventual path. These intense displays happen once a decade or so, Cooke said. The next one won't be until 2027 or 2028." The best viewing experience will be away from the city. Since it takes roughly 30-45 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darkness, it's recommended you don't pull out your smartphone or excessively shine your flashlight around. The Los Angeles Times has a neat infographic of the Perseid meteor shower.
Mars

NASA Awards Companies $65 Million To Develop Habitats For Deep Space (techcrunch.com) 88

An anonymous reader writes from a report via TechCrunch: NASA has committed $65 million to six companies over the course of two years for the purpose of developing and testing deep-space habitats that could be used for future missions to Mars. TechCrunch reports: "It's part of the organization's NEXTStep, an ongoing partnership program under NASA's Advanced Exploration Systems that funds private research into technology for space exploration. Last year's NEXTStep contracts were for a variety of things, but this year they're all on the same track: "deep space habitats where humans will live and work independently for months or years at a time, without cargo supply deliveries from Earth." The lucky companies are all taking slightly different approaches to the problem of deep space habitation." The six companies include Bigelow Aerospace, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK, Sierra Nevada Corporation's Space Systems and NanoRacks.
Mars

NASA Publishes a Thousand Photos of Mars (engadget.com) 62

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Engadget: NASA has released a huge number of high-resolution photos of Mars captured from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's HiRise camera, which has been capturing images of the planet since 2005. The latest dump consists of over a thousand images that can familiarize you with the red planet's many craters, impact sites, dunes, mountains, ice caps and other features. You can view every single photo captured on HiRise's official website. Popular Science mentions that every 26 months or so, Mars and the sun are on the opposite sides of the Earth, allowing MRO to transmit a massive amount of photos from the planet's surface.
Earth

Earth's Resources Used Up at Quickest Rate Ever in 2016 (france24.com) 323

An anonymous reader writes: In just over seven months, humanity has used up a full year's allotment of natural resources such as water, food and clean air -- the quickest rate yet, according to a new report. The point of "overshoot" will officially be reached on Monday, said environmental group Global Footprint Network -- five days earlier than last year. "We continue to grow our ecological debt," said Pascal Canfin of green group WWF, reacting to the annual update. "From Monday August 8, we will be living on credit because in eight months we would have consumed the natural capital that our planet can renew in a year."
Earth

Being Lazy Is a Sign of High Intelligence, Study Suggests (independent.co.uk) 254

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Independent: Findings from a U.S.-based study seem to support the idea that people with a high IQ get bored less easily, leading them to spend more time engaged in thought. And active people may be more physical as they need to stimulate their minds with external activities, either to escape their thoughts or because they get bored quickly. Researchers from the Florida Gulf Coast University gave a classic test -- dating back three decades -- to a group of students. The 'need for cognition' questionnaire asked participants to rate how strongly they agree with statements such as "I really enjoy a task that involves coming up with new solutions to problems," and "I only think as hard as I have to." The researchers, led by Todd McElroy, then selected 30 'thinkers' and 30 'non-thinkers' from the pool of candidates. Over the next seven days both groups wore a device on their wrist which tracked their movements and activity levels, providing a constant stream of data on how physically active they were. Results showed the thinking group were far less active during the week than the non-thinkers. "Ultimately, an important factor that may help more thoughtful individuals combat their lower average activity levels is awareness," said McElroy, according to The British Psychological Society. "Awareness of their tendency to be less active, coupled with an awareness of the cost associated with inactivity, more thoughtful people may then choose to become more active throughout the day."
Earth

Florida District Considers Releasing GMO Mosquitos After Cayman Islands Experiment (accuweather.com) 144

It's already underway just 364 miles south of Florida, according to the Associated Press. "The first wave of genetically modified mosquitoes were released Wednesday in the Cayman Islands as part of a new effort to control the insect that spreads Zika and other viruses," according to an article shared by Slashdot reader Okian Warrior: Genetically altered male mosquitoes, which don't bite but are expected to mate with females to produce offspring that die before reaching adulthood, were released in the West Bay area of Grand Cayman Island, according to a joint statement from the Cayman Islands Mosquito Research and Control Unit and British biotech firm Oxitec.
"What could possibly go wrong?" asks The Atlantic, citing history's great pest-control fails in Hawaii and Australia. But a similar release is already being considered in the Florida Keys, though Accuweather reports it apparently depends on the results of a November referendum which could also "affect the likelihood of Oxitec trials taking place in other parts of the United States."

Slashdot Top Deals