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Earth

Asteroid Day On June 30 Aims To Raise Awareness of Collision Risks 31 31

Posted by samzenpus
from the extinction-level-event dept.
benonemusic writes: International organizers--including Queen's Brian May, an astrophysicist--have organized the world's first Asteroid Day on June 30, as a means to raise awareness for future collision risks and encourage actions to minimize the threats from such events. "If we can track the trajectories of asteroids and monitor their movement in our solar system, then we can know if they are on a path to impact Earth," former Apollo astronaut Rusty Schweickart told the organizers of Asteroid Day in a statement. "If we find them early enough, we can move them out of Earth's orbit, thus preventing any kind of major natural disaster."
Space

The Underfunded, Disorganized Plan To Save Earth From the Next Giant Asteroid 85 85

Posted by Soulskill
from the how's-that-space-program-coming-along dept.
New submitter citadrianne sends a story about the beginnings of our asteroid defense efforts, and how initial concern over an asteroid strike wasn't sustained long enough to establish consistent funding: Until a few decades ago, the powers that be didn't take the threat of asteroids very seriously. This changed on March 23, 1989, when an asteroid 300 meters in diameter called 1989FC passed within half a million miles of Earth. As the New York Times put it, "In cosmic terms, it was a close call." After this arguably close brush with total annihilation, Congress asked NASA to prepare a report on the threat posed by asteroids. The 1992 document, "The Spaceguard Survey: Report of the NASA International Near-Earth-Object Detection Workshop," was, suffice it to say, rather bleak.

If a large NEO were to hit Earth, the report said, its denizens could look forward to acid rain, firestorms, and an impact winter induced by dust being thrown miles into the stratosphere. ... After reports from the National Research Council made it clear that meeting the discovery requirement outlined in the Congressional mandate was impossible given the lack of program funding, NEOO got a tenfold budget increase from 2009 to 2014. Yet it still faces a number of difficulties. A program audit released last September described the NEOO program as a one-man operation that is poorly integrated and lacking in objectives and oversight.
Earth

Weather Promising for Sunday Morning SpaceX Launch 49 49

Posted by timothy
from the ask-the-north-koreans dept.
USA Today reports that the weather looks good for Sunday morning's planned launch at 10:21, Florida time (14:21 GMT) of SpaceX's Dragon cargo capsule, loaded with a docking adapter intended for future manned-crew access to the International Space Station. An excerpt: "The forecast calls for a 90% chance of weather good enough to permit SpaceX's 208-foot Falcon 9 rocket to blast off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station during an instantaneous launch window. ... "This is actually pretty cool, because it does play right into our next Crew Dragon program," [Hans] Koenigsmann, SpaceX's vice president for mission assurance, said of the docking adapter in a separate news briefing. "It's something that we bring up for our own future, and so we're really motivated to bring this up." Related: astroengine points out that as part of this launch, SpaceX will make another attempt at landing the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a floating platform off the coast of Florida after sending the Dragon cargo vehicle to the International Space Station. Although SpaceX is hoping to achieve something the rocket industry has never done before (true usability of rocket engines, cutting costs), it's not the only game in town — Blue Origin, ULA and Airbus all have rocket return desires.
Science

The Physics of Lexus's Hoverboard 36 36

Posted by Soulskill
from the hello-mcfly dept.
benonemusic writes: Lexus' hoverboard may never become commercially available, but is it scientifically feasible? You'd need to place a superconducting material in a magnetic field powerful enough to support the board and the rider. Steve Gourlay of Lawrence Berkeley Lab's Superconductor Magnet Group provides insights, including the possibility that Lexus put some very strong rare-earth magnets underneath the sidewalk in the video.
Mars

DARPA Is Already Working On Designer Organisms To Terraform Mars 136 136

Posted by samzenpus
from the good-bacteria dept.
MarkWhittington writes: Space visionaries dream of a time when human beings will not only settle Mars, but will terraform the Red Planet into something more Earth-like, with a breathable atmosphere, running water, and a functioning biosphere. Evidence exists that Mars was more or less Earth-like billions of years ago before the atmosphere leached away into space and the water became frozen under the ground and at the poles. Terraforming Mars is decades away from the beginning and probably centuries away from the end. But DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is already genetically engineering organisms that will help turn the Red Planet blue, according to a story in Motherboard.
Earth

Judge Orders Dutch Government To Finally Take Action On Climate Promises 242 242

Posted by Soulskill
from the won't-somebody-think-of-the-dutch-children dept.
New submitter Errol backfiring writes: Although the Dutch government has promised to make sure carbon emissions are lowered considerably, they have consistently failed to take action. Dutch climate group Urgenda and Dutch citizens have gone to court to force the government to take action, and the verdict (linked page is in Dutch) is that the government must reduce emissions by at least 25% compared to 1990 leves.

This 25% cut is seen as the minimum effort needed to keep the people safe from climate change dangers. 25% to 40% is the norm in international climate policy. The verdict is also important for similar climate groups in other countries.
Power

The Presidential Candidate With a Plan To Run the US On 100% Clean Energy 308 308

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-glory-to-the-hypnotoad dept.
merbs writes: Thus far, no other candidate has said they're going to make climate change their top priority. Martin O'Malley has not only done that, but he has outlined a plan that would enact emissions reductions in line with what scientists say is necessary to slow global climate change—worldwide emissions reductions of 40-70 percent by 2050. He's the only candidate to do that, too. His plan would phase out fossil-fueled power plants altogether, by midcentury.
Earth

Recycling Is Dying 371 371

Posted by samzenpus
from the end-of-the-line dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Aaron C. Davis writes in the Washington Post that recycling, once a profitable business for cities and private employers alike, has become a money-sucking enterprise. Almost every recycling facility in the country is running in the red and recyclers say that more than 2,000 municipalities are paying to dispose of their recyclables instead of the other way around. "If people feel that recycling is important — and I think they do, increasingly — then we are talking about a nationwide crisis," says David Steiner, chief executive of Waste Management, the nation's largest recycler.

The problem with recylcing is that a storm of falling oil prices, a strong dollar and a weakened economy in China have sent prices for American recyclables plummeting worldwide. Trying to encourage conservation, progressive lawmakers and environmentalists have made matters worse. By pushing to increase recycling rates with bigger and bigger bins — while demanding almost no sorting by consumers — the recycling stream has become increasingly polluted and less valuable, imperiling the economics of the whole system. "We kind of got everyone thinking that recycling was free," says Bill Moore. "It's never really been free, and in fact, it's getting more expensive."

One big problem is that China doesn't want to buy our garbage anymore. In the past China had sent so many consumer goods to the United States that all the shipping containers were coming back empty. So US companies began stuffing the return-trip containers with recycled cardboard boxes, waste paper and other scrap. China could, in turn, harvest the raw materials. Everyone won. But China has launched "Operation Green Fence" — a policy to prohibit the import of unwashed post-consumer plastics and other "contaminated" waste shipments. In China, containerboard, a common packaging product from recycled American paper, is trading at just over $400 a metric ton, down from nearly $1,000 in 2010. China also needs less recycled newsprint; the last paper mill in Shanghai closed this year. "If the materials we are exporting are so contaminated that they are being rejected by those we sell to," says Valerie Androutsopoulos, "maybe it's time to take another look at dual stream recycling."
Earth

3D Printing Might Save the Rhinoceros 163 163

Posted by timothy
from the social-networks-might-save-the-whales dept.
GordonShure.com writes: San Francisco based biotech startup Pembient have released details of their 3D printing led method to derail the market for Rhinoceros horns. Presently the bulk of demand originates from China, where said horns — gathered in the wild by poachers who usually kill the rhinos — are revered for supposed medicinal qualities. The new firm intends to mix keratin with Rhino DNA, then machine the combination with a 3D printer in a way that their counterfeit horns are difficult to detect by customers and traffickers alike.

The company already mulls expanding its production principle to other, lucrative wild animal trades such as the claws of tigers and lions. Pembient is however a young company — for all their ingenuity, will their ambitions to take on such a colossal black market be realized?
Earth

Lawrence Krauss On the Pope's Encyclical: Not Even Close? 305 305

Posted by timothy
from the natural-vs.-extranatural dept.
Lasrick writes: Lawrence Krauss muses on the hoopla surrounding Pope Francis' encyclical on climate change, and finds the document lacking: 'It is ironic that while the scientific community has long tried to raise warning signals and induce action to address human-induced climate change, an encyclical from the pope on this subject is being taken by many as an ultimate call to action on this urgent issue.'
Space

Venus May Have Active Volcanoes 45 45

Posted by Soulskill
from the because-venus-needs-more-ways-to-kill-you dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The European Space Agency's Venus Express spacecraft has discovered hot lava flows on the surface of Venus, providing the best evidence yet that the planet may have active volcanoes. "[U]sing a near-infrared channel of the spacecraft's Venus Monitoring Camera (VMC) to map thermal emission from the surface through a transparent spectral window in the planet's atmosphere, an international team of planetary scientists has spotted localized changes in surface brightness between images taken only a few days apart (abstract)." Venus is fairly similar to Earth in size and composition, which suggests it has an internal heat source. One of the biggest mysteries about Venus is how that heat escapes, and volcanic activity could be the answer.
It's funny.  Laugh.

Kim Jong Un Claims To Have Cured AIDS, Ebola and Cancer 162 162

Posted by Soulskill
from the what-took-you-so-long dept.
jones_supa writes: North Korea has created a wonder drug which not only cures AIDS, but also eradicates Ebola and cancer — at least, according to the latest proclamation from the country's news agency. Their announcement says the miracle cure consists of ginseng grown from fertilizer and rare earth elements. The drug's website cites a medical study in Africa where the product was tested on HIV-positive patients. It records that every single participant in the trial noted an improvement, with 56% being completely cured and 44% noting a considerable improvement in their condition. Among other benefits, the North Korean scientists also revealed that the drug is capable of curing a number of cancers, but did not provide details of the medical trials which support this claim. It's also good to remember that the state has previously claimed that Kim Jong Il invented the hamburger.
Earth

Study: Sixth Extinction Event Is Underway 294 294

Posted by Soulskill
from the setting-off-the-dominoes dept.
garyisabusyguy writes: We've heard proposals in the past that a new extinction event is underway. However, a new study takes into consideration many other factors that may be tilting the data, and still comes to the inevitable conclusion that we have triggered a large die-off, and that we may become victims of it as well.

From the paper's abstract: "Even under our assumptions, which would tend to minimize evidence of an incipient mass extinction, the average rate of vertebrate species loss over the last century is up to 114 times higher than the background rate. Under the 2 E/MSY background rate, the number of species that have gone extinct in the last century would have taken, depending on the vertebrate taxon, between 800 and 10,000 years to disappear. These estimates reveal an exceptionally rapid loss of biodiversity over the last few centuries, indicating that a sixth mass extinction is already under way."

The authors suggest that rapid work to avert the worst of the die-off is still possible. The question may really be whether we can get past paid trolls, FUD, and finger pointing in order to act wisely in a timely manner.
Earth

Big-Data Animal Tracking As an Eye On Life and Planet 28 28

Posted by timothy
from the our-eyes-on-the-ground dept.
New submitter Thoe writes: As published in Science Magazine and covered by The Washington Post, the continued evolution of animal tracking through various technologies combined with Big Data analytical techniques is driving a push into the "Golden Age" of remote tracking of animals and the environment.

From the abstract: "The unique perspective offered by big-data animal tracking enables a new view of animals as naturally evolved sensors of environment, which we think has the potential to help us monitor the planet in completely new ways. A massive multi-individual monitoring program would allow a quorum sensing of our planet, using a variety of species to tap into the diversity of senses that have evolved across animal groups, providing new insight on our world through the sixth sense of the global animal collective." (Full disclosure, yes, my brother is one of the publishers.)
ISS

UrtheCast Releases Its First Commercial Videos of Earth 45 45

Posted by samzenpus
from the take-a-look dept.
schwit1 writes: UrtheCast has released high resolution videos of three Earth cities taken from its camera on ISS. Take a look. The cameras are quite successful in capturing the motion of vehicles on highways and road, which is amazing considering the vibrations that ISS experiences merely from astronaut movements. Quartz reports: "The company plans to offer the imagery in several tiers, from a free video feed on its website to an API that will allow customers, including corporations, governments and individuals, to purchase imagery data from its database or make real-time requests for a look at a given spot on the earth. The cameras scan the ground under the ISS, which tracks the earth between about 51 degrees north and south latitude."
Space

Should Nuclear Devices Be Kept On Hand To Protect Against Near Earth Objects? 272 272

Posted by samzenpus
from the break-out-the-mini-nuke dept.
Lasrick writes: Seth Baum ponders whether nuclear devices should be kept on hand for the purpose of destroying near-Earth objects (NEOs) that pose a threat to the planet. Baum acknowledges that "The risk posed by NEOs is not zero, but it is small relative to the risk posed by nuclear weapons." Even so, Baum writes, since the consequences of an NEO hitting the earth would be catastrophic, keeping 10 or 20 nuclear devices available might be a good idea, and would be "insignificant compared to the thousands now held in military arsenals."
Mars

A First: CubeSat-Style Probes To Accompany InSight Mars Lander 22 22

Posted by timothy
from the emergent-order dept.
Hundreds of CubeSats have been launched to Earth orbit since 2003. Now, though, two of the small-form-factor craft are set for a deeper space mission. According to Spaceflight Now, The twin CubeSat mission, known as Mars Cube One, will launch on an Atlas 5 rocket in March 2016 with NASA’s InSight lander. The CubeSats will relay status signals from InSight as the landing probe descends through the atmosphere, eliminating potential delays in verifying the success of the mission. ... Each Mars Cube One, or MarCO, CubeSat spacecraft measures 14.4 inches (36.6 centimeters) by 9.5 inches (24.3 centimeters) by 4.6 inches (11.8 centimeters) when closed up for launch, according to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which announced details of the mission Friday. The standardized and small CubeSat has made satellite design and launching accessible to schools and others; going to Mars costs a lot more (in this case it's a "$13 million secondary mission"), but it could conceivably put interplanetary probes possible for deep-pocketed universities or corporations.
Communications

Online At Last: Comet Lander Philae Wakes Up 62 62

Posted by timothy
from the from-a-long-winter's-nap dept.
techtech writes with this news from the BBC: The European Space Agency (ESA) says its comet lander, Philae, has woken up and contacted Earth. Philae, the first spacecraft to land on a comet, was dropped on to the surface of Comet 67P by its mothership, Rosetta, last November. It worked for 60 hours before its solar-powered battery ran flat. The comet has since moved nearer to the sun and Philae has enough power to work again, says the BBC's science correspondent Jonathan Amos. An account linked to the probe tweeted the message, "Hello Earth! Can you hear me?" Watch this space for some more links to follow. Update: 06/14 13:39 GMT by T : From the ESA's Rosetta blog: When analysing the status data it became clear that Philae also must have been awake earlier: "We have also received historical data - so far, however, the lander had not been able to contact us earlier," [according to project manager Dr. Stephan Ulamec.] Now the scientists are waiting for the next contact. There are still more than 8000 data packets in Philae’s mass memory which will give the DLR team information on what happened to the lander in the past few days on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
Earth

As Drought Worsens, California Orders Record Water Cuts 599 599

Posted by timothy
from the your-long-showers-probably-aren't-the-problem dept.
New submitter GordonShure.com writes: The State of California has made an unprecedented move by uniformly restricting water supplies across the entire state as demand outstrips supply. Farms are most affected, though food prices aren't anticipated to rise in any hurry: imports from out of state continue apace. Notably, this is a problem Silicon Valley hasn't much helped to solve.

Will this move induce meaningful modernization upon the infrastructure supporting the state's thirty-eight million residents? Or will things continue to be corn, corn, corn for the time being?
Earth

Solar Power Capacity Installs Surpass Wind and Coal For Second Year 259 259

Posted by samzenpus
from the going-green dept.
Lucas123 writes: Residential rooftop solar installations hit a historical high in the first quarter of 2015, garnering an 11% increase over the previous quarter and a 76% increase over the Q1, 2014. New installations of solar power capacity surpassed those of wind and coal for the second year in a row, accounting for 32% of all new electrical capacity, according to a new report by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association. Residential solar installation costs dropped to $3.46 per watt of installed capacity this quarter, which represents a 2.2% reduction over last quarter and a 10% reduction over the first quarter of 2014.