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Science, Space & Robotics Posts - Page 9

Excavation of Ice Age sinkhole packed with fossils starts next week

Scientists are set to begin excavations at a sinkhole in Wyoming that holds the fossilized remains of some animals that lived during the Ice Age. The cavern holds the skeletons of mammoths and dire wolves that are said to be preserved in unusually good condition.

 

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This excavation will mark the first exploration of Natural Trap Cave in Wyoming since it was discovered in the 1970's. The cavern is 85-feet deep and formed a natural repository for fossil records dating back 100,000 years.

 

The cave was formed when the limestone bedrock at the foot of the Bighorn Mountains collapsed. Over the years, thousands of animals fell into the 15-foot wide mouth of the cave that would have been concealed by vegetation. The cave is 120-feet wide at the base and is cold and damp helping to preserve the fossils.

2012 solar storm nearly changed life on Earth as we know it

Today just about everything we use relies on electricity to operate from our smartphones and computers to our toilets in some cases. On July 23, 2012, the sun threw two gigantic clouds of plasma into space and they barely missed the Earth. In fact, had the coronal mass ejections happened only a week before, they could have devastated life on Earth according to scientists.

 

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These storms wouldn't have killed people necessarily, but they would have likely damaged satellites and the electrical grid to the point that anything that plugs into the wall wouldn't have worked. Physicist Daniel Baker says that if those solar eruptions had hit the Earth, we would still be picking up the pieces two years later.

 

NASA said, "Analysts believe that a direct hit ... could cause widespread power blackouts, disabling everything that plugs into a wall socket. Most people wouldn't even be able to flush their toilet because urban water supplies largely rely on electric pumps. According to a study by the National Academy of Sciences, the total economic impact could exceed $2 trillion or 20 times greater than the costs of a Hurricane Katrina. Multi-ton transformers damaged by such a storm might take years to repair."

Dogs are fully capable of getting jealous, research finds

A groundbreaking new study published in Plos One has revealed the answer to a question that's probably been plaguing mankind since the dawn of its existence - do dogs get jealous? The answer, apparently, is yes.

 

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Psych professor Christine Harris of the University of California took a sample size of 36 dogs and kept a close eye on them as owners dilligently ignored the poor pooches in their own homes. Their human masters were told to either read a book out loud, lavish attention on an unknown object, like a Halloween bucket, or praise and pet a moving, barking toy dog. Most dogs didn't seem to care too much when their owner was reading the book, but talking to the toy dog set the subjects off and caused them to act aggressively. 40 percent of the dogs acted jealous when owners talked to inanimate objects.

 

According to Harris, the research suggests dogs are likely to get antsy if they feel a rival is getting more attention than them. "It suggests to me that some of our ideas about the nature of jealousy, like that it requires complex cognition, are incorrect," Harris said.

NASA wants proposals for commercial satellite data relays for Mars

NASA is currently looking for proposals for a commercial satellite network to be put in orbit around Mars. The satellite network would be used to provide telecommunications capabilities for future robotic missions to Mars.

 

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"We are looking to broaden participation in the exploration of Mars to include new models for government and commercial partnerships," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "Depending on the outcome, the new model could be a vital component in future science missions and the path for humans to Mars."

 

NASA wants to avoid a communications gap foreseen for the 2020s and is seeking cost effective solutions to future communications needs. "Looking ahead, we need to seriously explore the possibility of the commercialization of Mars communications services," said Lisa May. "This will offer advantages to NASA, while also providing appropriate return-on-investment to the service provider." Communications currently use relay radios to send data from the surface of Mars to orbiters in place around the planet. With only one more orbiter, MAVEN, planned in the foreseeable future, NASA is predicting communications issues for future rovers sent to the surface of the planet.

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket soft landing test completed

SpaceX is working on a way to be able to retrieve the main stage of the Falcon 9 rocket to be reused for future flights. This month the Falcon 9 was used to put six ORBCOMM satellites into space and after that launch was completed successfully, the main stage of the rocket went on to perform another test.

 

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The main stage fell back into the atmosphere at hypersonic velocity and a camera on the outside of the rocket recorded the landing process. As the rocket came back to a water landing in the Atlantic Ocean, the main rockets fired up twice to slow the rocket down to a velocity of near zero at touchdown.

 

 

You can see in the video above that the landing process appears to have performed flawlessly. The landing legs on the rocket pop out and the rocket lowers itself into a very soft landing in the water before toppling over on its side in the ocean, as planned. SpaceX says that the structural integrity of the rocket was damaged during the flopping over horizontally portion but the camera footage shows things performed as planned and data needed was gathered in the test. The goal is to eventually land the main stage on a floating landing pad for reuse with no refurbishment.

Researchers creating smart helmet technology to relay concussion data

A new technology being developed at Western Michigan University hopes to give coaches and medical staff a better glimpse when a player suffers a concussion on the field. A new pressure sensor designed for helmets uses printed electronics that sends information to a smartphone, providing immediate data on hit severity.

 

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All data can be stored so coaches and staff can monitor each player's complete history following a concussion-related incident.

 

"Basically, this device or system would eliminate the possibility of inaccuracies from field judgments made by coaches, who rely on the self-assessment or self-reporting of players," said Massood Atashbar, WMU electrical and computer science professor, in a statement to local media. "The coach would receive real-time, actionable information when one of the players receives a potentially dangerous and serious impact to the head."

Continue reading 'Researchers creating smart helmet technology to relay concussion data' (full post)

Schoolkids design space dinners for Brit Tim Peake aboard the ISS

The winners of Britain's Great British Space Dinner contest have been announced by the UK Space Agency, deciding the extraterrestrial diet of English former Army Major Tim Peake as he makes his way to the International Space Station.

 

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School kids across the country were asked to think up a Brit-themed, nutritious dinner suitable for eating in space. Elementary and high-school students entered the competition, and the winners have just been chosen by Peake and celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal, who will work together with the designers to turn the dishes into real meals, edible aboard the ISS.

 

Among the winning dishes were a fusion English-Indian meal of spicy food and a rhubarb and custard dessert, from Chloe in Nova Hreod Academy, Swindon, and a full English breakfast in the form of a burger from Archie in Abberley Parochial V.C. Primary School in Worcestershire. Pictured is the Rocket Lolley, a three course meal all-in-one made of tomato and basil soup, a spicy mackerel curry, and the Eton mess dessert, by the KFSPACEGIRLS team from Emmanuel College, Gateshead. "I'm incredibly impressed with the creative and mouth-watering entries we've received from children all over the UK," said Peake, who will be aboard the Station for six months. "I'm really looking forward to enjoying a Great British Space Dinner on board the International Space Station."

Satellites likely captured image of MH17 hit by missile over Ukraine

President Barack Obama confirmed Malaysia Airlines MH17 was likely shot down over eastern Ukraine by Russian-supported separatists using a surface-to-air missile. Obama and military experts speaking to mainstream media aren't discussing much reasoning behind how they know - but it's plausible a Department of Defense military satellite saw a heat signature when the missile hit.

 

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The U.S. government uses space-based technology to defend against intercontinental ballistic missiles, serving as an early warning system. Newer satellites ushered in the Space Based Infrared Systems (SBIRS) network that can identify missiles quicker so they can be intercepted.

 

Federal governments won't provide detailed images of the crash site, which spans several square miles, but commercial satellite owners could release further details. Some Earth-watching satellites have started to take a closer look at the airspace above eastern Ukraine. However, cloudy weather has hampered such efforts, but it could still be possible to identify how much the scene has been tampered with by rebels.

UAE wants to send unmanned spacecraft to Mars

The United Arab Emirates is a wealthy nation that makes most of its money off its vast oil reserves. The country is well known for building some very interesting attractions, such as the world's largest tower, and it is now putting its eyes on the heavens.

 

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The UAE wants to send the first Arab spacecraft to Mars in 2021. Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, says that the Arab mission to Mars will prove that the country can deliver scientific contributions to humanity.

 

"Our region is a region of civilization. Our destiny is, once again, to explore, to create, to build and to civilize," said Al Maktoum, who is also UAE's vice president, in a statement. The UAE has wanted Arab nations to create a space agency similar to the ESA. The goal of the UAE is to send an unmanned probe to the red planet.

Largest four-winged dinosaur ever discovered in China

Scientists have discovered a new type of dinosaur in China that is said to be the largest four-winged dinosaur ever discovered. The fossil was discovered in northeastern China and shows a creature with tail feathers that were a foot long. The next longest tail feathers ever discovered on a dinosaur were 9-inches long.

 

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The newly discovered fossil shows that the dinosaur had feathers on its wings and hind legs making it one of only a few four-winged dinosaurs ever discovered. Large, sharp teeth tell the scientists that the dinosaur was carnivorous and it had sharp claws.

 

The newly discovered dinosaur has been called Changyuraptor yangi, the first part of that name means long-feathered raptor and the latter part is to honor the financial supporter of the expedition. Overall, the dinosaur measured four feet long and weighed nine pounds.

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