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NASA welcomes citizen scientists to compete for $35,000 in awards, and public recognition, for those able to successfully help develop improved asteroid identification algorithms.
The first contest in the series will launch on Monday, March 17 - and the Asteroid Grand Challenge Series will have topcoder challenges open to programmers from across the world.
"For the past three years, NASA has been learning and advancing the ability to leverage distributed algorithm and coding skills through the NASA Tournament Lab to solve tough problems," said Jason Crusan, NASA Tournament Lab Director, in a press statement. "We are now applying our experience with algorithm contests to helping protect the planet from asteroid threats through image analysis."
What do you do when a volcano is going off? Well, you'd whip your smartphone out and start recording it, right? Probably not, because of the mass amounts of heat - oh and mortal danger - but what about flying in a drone? This is what Shaun O'Callaghan did, in the video below.
O'Callaghan used a DJI Phantom 2, which is a ready-to-fly (RTF) quadropter, with a gimbal mount and GoPro camera attached. The drone has a flight time of around 25 minutes, enough to capture some gorgeous footage from the exploding volcano. This is an incredible feat, as a normal helicopter could never get this close to an active volcano thanks to the mass heat being pumped out of it, with lava pouring out of vents at temperatures of up to 2192F, or 1200C.
O'Callaghan filmed the footage in Vanuatu, which is a two-hour flight off of the coast of Australia. It's home to some pretty incredible volcano activity.
The United States is the top producing nation of drones, as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) tries to come to terms with commercial drone regulation. Industries such as film, farming, and construction now find drones can be a great tool to handle tasks including video recording, mapping geographic sites, and conducting research in remote regions.
There is a global push to bring drones into the commercial market - and Amazon's desire to use drones to deliver packages will need to wait until lawmakers create regulations to fly drones in U.S. airspace.
Since the U.S. has such busy airspace, the FAA is closely studying standards that are right the first time - which means there isn't a big rush to make it happen immediately.
A few years ago a pair of scientists theorized that there was another planet in our solar system orbiting far beyond the orbit of Pluto. The scientists that offered the theory are John Matese and Daniel Whitmire from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Both men are physics professors.
Their theory grabbed a lot of attention when it was first published back in 2011. The scientists hoped that when NASA finished combing through the data from its WISE, Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, survey that their theory might be proven correct.
NASA is finished with that survey and has announced that it found no proof of Planet X, also known as Tyche. The scientists had theorized that Planet X is a gas giant four times larger than Jupiter and would be found in the Oort cloud.
NASA is always-on the lookout for asteroids that are coming close to the Earth to ensure that we have some warning of one if them is going to hit the planet and to study ones that pass nearby for science. Today an asteroid that is about 90-feet in diameter is going to streak by the planet between the Earth and moon's orbit.
That sounds close if you don't keep in mind the vast distances in space. The asteroid, called 2014 DX110, will be about 217,000 miles from the Earth at its closest point. It is actually very far away from the planet, even though on a cosmic scale this is a close call.
The asteroid will pass the earth at 33,000 mph. At 217,000 miles away from the Earth, it is about 9/10ths of the distance to the moon from the Earth. The asteroid will be at that distance from the planet for about seven hours.
Giant single celled organisms that thawed out from arctic ice and took over mankind use to be a thing only heard of in low-budget, b-grade movies from the 60's and 70's, but the reality is that large viruses frozen in permafrost is a very real reality. Recently, scientist thawed out a block of 30,000-year old permafrost and allowed any viruses that survived to infect the cells of amoebas.
The amoebas used in the study were also a strain found in 30,000 year old permafrost that were reanimated by researchers. When combined with the viruses, the amoeba cells burst, or what is called cellular lysis. When inspected, the burst cells contained a virus that was one of the largest ever discovered and is very similar to a previously discovered ancient virus named Pandoravirus. Due to the similarities and its jug like shape, the new virus was named Pithovirus after a type of amphora used by Pandora.
The Pithovirus contains a genome of just 600,000 DNA bases which is small in terms of modern-day viruses. Extra space inside the virus is consumed by proteins that are needed for the virus to begin replication. Additionally the Pithovirus is only able to encode 467 proteins which is much less than any other giant virus ever discovered.
The use of social media with real-time capability could one day be used to track drug and medical issues, hopefully able to prevent medical outbreaks. Using Twitter analytics and linking the collected information with drug use and geographic data, for example, could allow big data to provide another good tool for medical researchers.
"Ultimately, these methods suggest that we can use 'big data' from social media for remote monitoring and surveillance of HIV risk behaviors and potential outbreaks," said Sean Young, David Geffen School of Medicine assistant professor, in a statement.
There is growing interest among university researchers and the private sector teaming up to monitor medical risk behavior - and to try and predict where a medical outbreak might occur next - though it's still a complicated matter. Of 550 million tweets collected from May 26 to Dec. 9, 2012, researchers found 8,538 tweets related to sexually risky behavior - and more than 1,300 implying stimulant drug use.
Research into remote mind-control took another step forward this week when scientist from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute managed to use a laser beam to convince a fly to mate with a ball of wax. The experiment, dubbed Fly Mind-Alternating Device (FlyMAD for short), utilizes a laser beam which is projected onto the fly's head and stimulates the fly's brain which has been altered with heat-activated proteins.
By using FluMAD to warm the fly's brain, researchers were able to cause the fly to instantly court the closest object nearby and then proceed to mate with it. The study says that the effects of the laser were so effective that it took an entire quarter of an hour for the fly to calm back down and return to normal. A similar study took place with mice and used normal white light to stimulate neurons in the rodent's brains, but the white light was ineffective on flys as it is unable to penetrate the insects exoskeleton.
Despite what you may think (I'm Looking at you Anthony), this research is not being conducted to bring forth mind control, but rather is being used to help researchers determine what happens when two neurons of opposing effects are activated simultaneously. This will help researchers map how the brain prioritizes neuron traffic, as well as finally understand how decision making parts of the brain function in different people, animals, and insects.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is currently creating new guidelines so unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are able to commercially fly in U.S. airspace.
Unlike many other countries, the U.S. has very crowded airspace, and the potential for safety issues in commercial drone crashes, will need to be properly addressed.
"Aerial robotics will be a significant market, assuming the FAA doesn't put huge restrictions on it," said Michael Blades, Frost & Sullivan analyst, when interviewed by the San Jose Mercury News.
Drones are still typically thought of in a traditional sense: something used to shoot GPS and laser-guided missiles at targets, but civilian companies express great interest in using drones for day-to-day tasks.
During a recent speech, US President Barack Obama announced that the US government is "building Iron Man". You can watch the announcement below, which feels very similar to the ending of the original Iron Man, where Tony Stark announces "I am Iron Man".
President Obama had a moment of fun with the speech, teasing that even if the US government was working on a super-suit, that it would be classified. He does well with his comedic timing during the speech, where he he corrects himself after stating that the US government is working on an Iron Man-like suit by saying "Not really. Maybe. It's classified".