Science, Space, Health & Robotics News - Page 390
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.
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.
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Orbital Sciences Cygnus spacecraft heads to ISS with supplies
Typically, when we talk about missions to the ISS to resupply the crew aboard the space station, we are talking about SpaceX. The other company that has a contract in the US to resupply the ISS is Orbital Sciences, and it has just launched its third mission to the ISS.
Orbital put its Cygnus unmanned spacecraft into orbit yesterday with a cargo hold packed with supplies for the space station. Among the supplies aboard the spacecraft was food, science gear, and mini satellites. Cygnus launched and was successfully put into the required orbit to link up with the ISS after a "perfect" launch. Orbital has one more resupply mission set for this year with three to take place in 2015.
"Today's mission was the fourth successful launch of Antares in the past 15 months and the third deployment of Cygnus in less than year," said David W. Thompson, Orbital's president and CEO. "So far, our second operational CRS mission is off to a great start with Cygnus operating exactly as anticipated at this early stage of the mission. We are very pleased to be a reliable partner with NASA to meet their need for reliable, regularly scheduled cargo resupply for the ISS."
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Pentagon studying 'neuroprosthetics' to help recall lost memories
The Pentagon is investing millions of dollars to develop technology that can be used for brain implants able to help patients recall memories. The surgically-installed implant is the latest idea from "neuroprosthetics," designed to help military personnel wounded and suffering from traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has teamed up with the University of Pennsylvania and University of California at Los Angeles, working together on the Restoring Active Memory program. Geared towards declarative memory, which is the brain's method to "record and recall times, places and other facts necessary for daily living."
"We don't have the Rosetta Stone for the memory system," said Michael Kahana, University of Pennsylvania computational memory lab director, in a recent statement. "The DARPA project is trying to dramatically accelerate that effort to decipher that Rosetta Stone. We're poised to do it. With this multisite effort, we might just be able to pull it off."
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Technology largely unable to protect civilians from IED attacks
The use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) against military targets proves to be successful, killing thousands of U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the civilian death toll is staggering, with IED and suicide bomber attacks boosting casualty rates among civilians 70 percent over the past three years, a report recently noted.
Unfortunately, there are very few technology-based solutions to defend civilians against IEDs, with bomb devices ranging from crude homemade IEDs to explosive devices useing military-grade supplies. As successfully demonstrated during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, a homemade pressure cooker IED with a mix of gunpowder, ball bearings and nails can be lethal - there was a final death toll of three people, injuring 264 athletes and spectators.
U.S. military personnel are relying more on armored vehicles, creating next-generation bomb detectors, and using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to conduct reconnaissance missions. The growing bloodshed in Iraq, however, will be difficult for local police officers and undertrained military personnel reduce civilian deaths. A massive 81 percent of 60,000 deaths recorded from 2011 to 2013 were civilians, and hit 66 countries, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Somalia, and Thailand.
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DARPA researching self-guided .50-caliber ammo rounds
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently tested a .50-caliber self-guided bullet that pairs a maneuverable round with a custom optical guidance system. The Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordinance (EXACTO) round is designed to help snipers be even more effective, and provides a bigger standoff range.
The U.S. military hopes a self-guided round will make it easier to eliminate targets with a single shot - helping keep snipers hidden. Specifically, the guidance system will prove helpful in Afghanistan and other environments where there are high winds, dusty terrain, and sometimes harsh shooting conditions.
"This video shows EXACTO rounds maneuvering in flight to hit targets that are offset from where the sniper rifle is aimed," according to DARPA. "EXACTO's specifically designed ammunition and real-time optical guidance system help track and direct projectiles to their targets by compensating for weather, wind, target movement and other factors that could impede successful hits."
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Hubble telescope detects mysterious deficit of light in the Universe
The Universe as we know it is a lot darker than it should be, according to the latest readings from the Hubble Space Telescope.
A new examination has revealed that ultraviolet light is mysteriously missing from the nearest known parts of the Universe. UV rays are largely invisible to us mortals because their wavelengths come up short of visible light, however, with high frequencies they can be visible in devices like ultraviolet lamps. Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder's Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy says that UV light can travel at great distances across the Universe, and most of it adds up. But closer to home there's a deficit that is tough to explain, leading researchers to question just what's happening to ionizing photons.
"If we count up the known sources of ultraviolet ionizing photons, we come up five times too short," said Benjamin Oppenheimer, one of the researchers. "We are missing 80 percent of the ionizing photons, and the question is where are they coming from? The most fascinating possibility is that an exotic new source, not quasars or galaxies, is responsible for the missing photons."
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Rats use whiskers like humans use hands, research says
Rats actually use their whiskers in a similar way that humans use their hands and fingers, particularly when exploring the dark, according to a revelatory new piece of research on the rodents.
Although it's long been known that mammals tend to use their whiskers to navigate dark patches, the full extent of control over the facial features was not known until now. Academics at Sheffield University set about using high speed videography to keep an eye on animals, each of which had been trained to run circuits for treats. Undergoing different scenarios, such as putting obstacles in their way or taking away visual cues, showed that the animals used their whiskers in a "purposeful" way to complete the track.
As the rats got quicker at running circuits, they also tended to change their whisker movements accordingly - whether that was to sweep surfaces or pushing their whiskers forward to detect objects that could be in their way. In the scenarios where they were likely to run into objects, the animals were more cautious and deliberately felt their way around using their whiskers. "All mammals except humans use facial whiskers as touch sensors. In humans we seem to have replaced this sense, in part, by being able to use our hand and fingers to feel our way," said Professor Tony Prescott. "The rat puts its whiskers where it thinks it will get the most useful information, just as we do with our fingertips."
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NASA 3D prints a model of light-year-long Eta Carinae nebula
NASA has created a full 3D model of a light-year-long nebula that was coughed out by the Eta Carinae system, 7,500 light years away from Earth, in the 19th century.
Eta Carinae can be found in the Carina constellation, and it's one of the brightest that are known out there by far - its smallest star is roughly 30 times as big as the Sun. In the 19th century, it spewed out the gassy Homonculus Nebula, and this is what the researchers have now printed off as a 3D model. NASA used the European Southern Observatory's appropriately titled Very Large Telescope and the X-Shooter spectrograph to image near-infrared, visible and ultraviolet wavelengths across the nebula to create the most complete image made to date. Researchers took this data to look at spatial and velocity information, which then enabled the creation of the very first high-res 3D model of the nebula.
The model was put together in Shape and allowed NASA staff to inspect the more unusual features of the nebula, including trenches and dust skirts, and because it was developed using an emission line of near infrared light that was created by the molecular hydrogen gas, even allows for a close-up guesstimate of the dust-covered sides facing away from our humble little planet.
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NASA's Voyager I swims into interstellar space
After a 37-year journey through our solar system, NASA's Voyager I has been hit by a third solar 'tsunami'. These solar tsunamis are coming from our sun, in the form of coronal mass ejections - in other words, shock waves from massive, violent eruptions on our sun.
Since 2012, there have been three of these CMEs, with the third one erupting on Monday. These eruptions have been helping NASA confirm something it proposed late last year: that Voyager is the first craft from Earth to travel into interstellar space. But what is interstellar space? Well, it's an area that is just beyond what is known as our heliosphere.
The heliosphere is an area where solar wind pushes back the dense plasma of space, in something that resembles a protective bubble. This plasma is the result of the death of stars millions of years ago. What should really make your scratch your noggin' is that the plasma found outside of the heliosphere, and in interstellar space, is 40 times denser than the plasma inside of the heliosphere.
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Foxconn to use robots in future assembly, starting with the new iPhone
Foxconn should be one of the first companies to deploy robots to build consumer devices, with Apple reportedly being the first company to make use of these new "Foxbots" as they're referred to.
These new Foxbots will be capable of assembling an average of 30,000 devices, costing somewhere between $20,000 to $25,000 per robot to make. Foxconn CEO Terry Gou has already said that these robots are in their final testing phase, with the company ready to unleash 10,000 robots into its factories. With Foxconn being the biggest partner for Apple in assembling its iOS-based devices like the iPhone, iPad and iPod, this could be big news for the Foxconn.
We already knew that Foxconn laid out plans to replace some of its human workers with some 1 million robots, but the time frame of this may shift. Apple is even chipping in, investing a hefty $10.5 billion on the advanced supply chain technology, with some of this investment sliding over to advanced machinery, something that includes assembly robots. Foxconn has hired an additional 100,000 new workers to help assemble the upcoming iPhone 6 for Apple, with production expected to ramp up next month for a launch in September.
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