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[l] at 7/1/20 4:25pm
A serious man in a business suit speaks into a microphone.

Enlarge / Stephen Hahn, Commissioner of Food and Drugs at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on June 30, 2020, in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty | Al Drago)

Any experimental COVID-19 vaccines aspiring to earn regulatory approval from the Food and Drug Administration will need to prevent or decrease the severity of disease in at least 50 percent of people, the agency announced Tuesday.

The criterium is part of a larger set of guidelines released by the agency for developing a vaccine to halt the spread of pandemic coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2—which causes COVID-19 and is now accelerating in much of the country after months of sustained devastation.

With the guidelines, the FDA tried to dispel fears that the rush to develop a COVID-19 vaccine may come at the expense of adequate safety testing. “We recognize the urgent need to develop a safe and effective vaccine to prevent COVID-19,” FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said in a statement. “While the FDA is committed to expediting this work, we will not cut corners in our decisions and are making clear through this guidance what data should be submitted to meet our regulatory standards.”

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[Category: Science, COVID-19, Drug Safety, fda, SARS-CoV-2, Stephen Hahn, vaccine, vaccine development]

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[l] at 7/1/20 3:58pm
The VV16 payload is trucked to the Vega Launch Zone in French Guiana.

Enlarge / The VV16 payload is trucked to the Vega Launch Zone in French Guiana. (credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace)

The European rocket firm Arianespace has been trying to launch a Vega rocket carrying dozens of small satellites for the better part of a year.

First, the launch was delayed from mid-2019 after the Vega rocket experienced its first failure in 15 flights. (That happened in July 2019.) Early this year, after the rocket's failure was investigated and addressed, Arianespace set a date for Vega's return-to-flight mission on March 23. But then the COVID-19 pandemic began spreading around the world, and the European spaceport in French Guiana was ultimately closed for about three months.

Finally, the launch date was reset for June 18. The four-stage rocket and its payload of 53 separate satellites—ranging from 1kg CubeSats up to 500kg mini-satellites—was readied. All appeared go for launch with this "VV16" mission nearly two weeks ago—then the forecast turned unfavorable.

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[Category: Science]

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[l] at 7/1/20 3:07pm
 U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO), joined by members of the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, delivers remarks during a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol on June 30, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Enlarge / U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO), joined by members of the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, delivers remarks during a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol on June 30, 2020 in Washington, DC. (credit: Stefani Reynolds | Getty Images)

A House committee tasked with managing the global climate crisis this week unveiled an ambitious, detailed policy-package proposal. It brings the United States to net-zero emissions, protects vulnerable communities, and helps limit global warming to an increase of 1.5 degrees.

The full report (large PDF) from the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis clocks in around 550 pages and contains suggestions for just about every sector you can think of. Not only does report provide specific policy recommendations and spell what should happen—it also suggests Congressional committees and Cabinet departments to oversee the creation and enforcement of each element.

Broadly speaking, the goals of the plan are to bring the United States to net-zero emissions no later than 2050 and then follow through to negative emissions in the back half of the 21st century. That goal would be achieved by adopting new regulations and incentives in energy, transportation, housing, construction, manufacturing, agriculture, telecommunications, and infrastructure for a start and then building on those accomplishments from there. The report is broad and dense, but here are a few of the highlights.

Read 22 remaining paragraphs | Comments

[Category: Policy, Science, carbon emissions, climate change, climate crisis, congress, environmental justice, policy, politics]

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[l] at 7/1/20 3:07pm
 U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO), joined by members of the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, delivers remarks during a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol on June 30, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Enlarge / U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO), joined by members of the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, delivers remarks during a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol on June 30, 2020 in Washington, DC. (credit: Stefani Reynolds | Getty Images)

A House committee tasked with managing the global climate crisis this week unveiled an ambitious, detailed policy-package proposal. It brings the United States to net-zero emissions, protects vulnerable communities, and helps limit global warming to an increase of 1.5 degrees.

The full report (large PDF) from the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis clocks in around 550 pages and contains suggestions for just about every sector you can think of. Not only does report provide specific policy recommendations and spell what should happen—it also suggests Congressional committees and Cabinet departments to oversee the creation and enforcement of each element.

Broadly speaking, the goals of the plan are to bring the United States to net-zero emissions no later than 2050 and then follow through to negative emissions in the back half of the 21st century. That goal would be achieved by adopting new regulations and incentives in energy, transportation, housing, construction, manufacturing, agriculture, telecommunications, and infrastructure for a start and then building on those accomplishments from there. The report is broad and dense, but here are a few of the highlights.

Read 22 remaining paragraphs | Comments

[Category: Policy, Science, carbon emissions, climate change, climate crisis, congress, environmental justice, policy, politics]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 7/1/20 10:07am
Artist's depiction of <em>Ankylosaurus magniventris</em> having a bad day.

Enlarge / Artist's depiction of Ankylosaurus magniventris having a bad day. (credit: Fabio Manucci)

The mass extinction event that ended the Cretaceous period 66 million years ago has long generated a lively back-and-forth debate among geologists. Wild episodes of volcanism line up with earlier mass extinctions, and the end-Cretaceous saw the Deccan Traps eruptions, which covered much of what is now India in lava. The asteroid impact that formed the Chicxulub crater quite obviously goes in the “bad things for life” category, too. But the Deccan eruptions can’t be ignored, so debates on the relative contributions of these events have been unavoidable.

In the last few years, more precise dating techniques have made the timing of the eruptions clearer. It’s obvious where the asteroid impact fits into the timeline, as a layer of dust and soot appears in the rocks around the world, but tying in the eruptions has been more difficult. And the fossil evidence and climate indicators have also left some room for interpretation about the effects of the volcanism.

A new study led by Alessandro Chiarenza at Imperial College London and Alexander Farnsworth at the University of Bristol tries to get some answers through a slightly different approach—creating a dinosaur habitat model.

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[Category: Science, chicxulub, Cretaceous, Deccan Traps, k-t mass extinction]

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[l] at 7/1/20 7:08am
  • Falcon 9 leaps off SLC-40 Tuesday with the 3rd GPS-III satellite for the United States Space Force / Air Force. [credit: Trevor Mahlmann ]

On Tuesday, SpaceX launched its 11th Falcon 9 rocket of the year—with a brand-new first stage delivering a 3.7-ton GPS III satellite into orbit for improved navigation services. The mission's customer, the US Space Force, was happy.

“The successful GPS III SV03 launch and recovery serves as another step in our journey with industry partners to create innovative, flexible, and affordable services to meet NSSL mission objectives and propel US dominance in space,” said Col. Robert Bongiovi, Launch Enterprise director.

Tuesday afternoon's launch puts the company on pace for 22 missions in this calendar year, which would break the company's previous record of 21 launches set in 2018. What seems more remarkable about this pace is that it has occurred amid a global pandemic that has slowed operations in many other countries.

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[Category: Science]

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[l] at 7/1/20 7:08am
  • Falcon 9 leaps off SLC-40 Tuesday with the 3rd GPS-III satellite for the United States Space Force / Air Force. [credit: Trevor Mahlmann ]

On Tuesday SpaceX launched its 11th Falcon 9 rocket of the year—with a brand-new first stage delivering a 3.7-ton GPS III satellite into orbit for improved navigation services. The mission's customer, the US Space Force, was happy.

“The successful GPS III SV03 launch and recovery serves as another step in our journey with industry partners to create innovative, flexible, and affordable services to meet NSSL mission objectives and propel US dominance in space,” said Col. Robert Bongiovi, Launch Enterprise director.

Tuesday afternoon's launch puts the company on pace for 22 missions in this calendar year, which would break the company's previous record of 21 launches set in 2018. What seems more remarkable about this pace is that it has occurred amidst a global pandemic that has slowed operations in many other countries.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

[Category: Science]

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[l] at 7/1/20 4:45am
Colorful Italian apartment building.

Enlarge / Even after the national lockdown ended, Italy is still locking down residential buildings if clusters of cases develop there. (credit: FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / Getty Images)

Italy was one of the countries hit earliest as the COVID-19 pandemic spread beyond its origin in China, and the country struggled with a sudden surge in cases that threatened to overwhelm its health services. But Italy turned into a success story, as an aggressive lockdown reversed its curve, causing new daily cases to drop from a peak of over 6,000 down to a steady flow of about 300. Compared to a number of other industrialized democracies, this was a major success.

Now, a team of researchers largely based in Italy is looking more carefully at the pandemic's spread there as well as the impact of control measures. The researchers have gotten most of the population of a small town to agree to testing before and after Italy's lockdown, providing a window into the behavior of the virus and how things changed during the lockdown.

In the beginning

The location in question is called Vo', a small town in northern Italy near Padua and Verona. Vo' has a population of a bit over 3,000 residents, and most of them (86 percent) agreed to take part in the study. In late February of this year, just as Italy entered lockdown, all the willing participants gave samples that were tested for the presence of SARS-CoV-2. Two weeks later, as Italy prepared to emerge from its lockdown, the participants were sampled again. Any health issues and contacts in the intervening time were surveyed, allowing people to trace contact networks, as well.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

[Category: Science, coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic, public health, SARS-CoV-2]

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[l] at 6/30/20 4:29pm
  • The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station undergoes a Wet Dress Rehearsal in preparation for launching Mars Perseverance. [credit: United Launch Alliance ]

NASA says it will be forced to delay the launch of its multibillion-dollar Perseverance mission to no earlier than July 30. The Mars-bound large rover must launch on an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida before the middle of August, or it will miss Earth's conjunction with the Red Planet.

This is the third delay in the launch campaign for Perseverance, formerly known as Mars 2020, and the most concerning because a new, formal launch date has not been set.

A problem arose during a Wet Dress Rehearsal test earlier this month. During this standard prelaunch test, an Atlas V rocket is fueled with propellant and a countdown is conducted until the final moments before ignition. So what happened? "A liquid-oxygen sensor line presented off-nominal data during the Wet Dress Rehearsal, and additional time is needed for the team to inspect and evaluate," NASA said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon, in response to a query from Ars.

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[Category: Science]

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[l] at 6/30/20 12:35pm
Men in white lab coats and face masks talk amongst themselves.

Enlarge / Chinese President Xi Jinping learns about the progress on a COVID-19 vaccine during his visit to the Academy of Military Medical Sciences in Beijing on March 2, 2020. (credit: Getty | Xinhua News Agency)

China has approved an experimental COVID-19 vaccine for use in its military after early clinical trial data suggested it was safe and spurred immune responses—but before larger trials that will test whether the vaccine can protect against SARS-CoV-2 infections.

This marks the first time any country has approved a candidate vaccine for military use. China’s Central Military Commission made the approval June 25, which will last for a year, according to a filing reported by Reuters.

The vaccine, developed by biotech company CanSino Biologics and the Chinese military, is a type of viral vector-based vaccine. That means researchers started with a viral vector, in this case a common strain of adenovirus (type-5), which typically causes mild upper respiratory infections. The researchers crippled the virus so that it doesn’t replicate in human cells and cause disease. Then, they engineered the virus to carry a signature feature of SARS-CoV-2—the coronavirus’s infamous spike protein, which juts out from the viral particle and allows the virus to get a hold on human cells.

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[Category: Science, adenovirus, antibody, cansino, china, coronavirus, COVID-19, immune response, immunity, SARS-CoV-2, vaccine, vector]

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[l] at 6/30/20 12:20pm
SpaceX added a new core to its fleet with the Demo-2 mission in late May.

Enlarge / SpaceX added a new core to its fleet with the Demo-2 mission in late May. (credit: NASA)

4:20pm ET Update: A Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at the end of its launch window on Tuesday afternoon, and delivered a GPS satellite into a good parking orbit. The spacecraft was due to deploy from the Falcon 9 rocket's second stage about 1 hour and 29 minutes after liftoff.

After dropping off the second stage, the first stage descended back toward the Earth to successfully land on the Just Read the Instructions droneship. SpaceX now has five used first stages available for additional missions.

Original post: On Tuesday, SpaceX will attempt to launch a 3.7-ton Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite for the US Air Force. This GPS III launch is scheduled to occur on a Falcon 9 rocket between 3:55pm ET and 4:10pm ET (19:56-20:10 UTC) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

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[Category: Science, falcon 9, spacex]

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[l] at 6/30/20 10:32am
UC graduate student Brian Lane climbs out of the Perdido Reservoir.

Enlarge / UC graduate student Brian Lane climbs out of the Perdido Reservoir. (credit: Photo/Nicholas Dunning)

For centuries, Tikal was a bustling Maya city in what is now northern Guatemala. But by the late 800s CE, its plazas and temples stood silent, surrounded by mostly abandoned farms. A recent study suggests a possible explanation for its decline: mercury and toxic algal blooms poisoned the water sources that should have carried the city through dry seasons.

Tikal’s Maya rulers built the city’s reservoirs to store water from rain and runoff during the winter months. The pavement of the large plazas in the heart of the city tilted slightly, helping funnel rainwater into the reservoirs. Over the centuries, dust and litter settled into the bottom of the reservoirs, too, providing a record of what the environment around Tikal was like—and what was washing into the city’s water supply. University of Cincinnati biologist David Lentz and his colleagues sampled layers of sediment dating back to the mid-800s, and they found that two of Tikal’s central reservoirs would have been too polluted to drink from.

An X-ray fluorescence spectrometer (which identifies the chemicals in a sample based on how they react to being zapped with an X-ray light) revealed that the sediment on the bottom of the reservoirs was laced with dangerous amounts of mercury. Lentz and his colleagues also found ancient DNA from blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, which can produce deadly toxins.

Read 21 remaining paragraphs | Comments

[Category: Science, algal blooms, ancient central america, ancient infrastructure, Archaeology, cinnabar, Guatemala, harmful algal blooms, Maya, Pre-Columbian civilizations, science, tikal, water pollution]

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[l] at 6/30/20 9:35am
  • Base camp of the National Geographic crew, illuminated below Everest. [credit: Renan Ozturk/National Geographic ]

Edmund Hillary and Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay made climbing history when they became the first men to successfully summit Mount Everest on May 29, 1953. But there's a chance that someone may have beaten them to the summit back in 1924: a British mountaineer named George Leigh Mallory and a young engineering student named Andrew "Sandy" Irvine. The two men set off for the summit in June of that year and disappeared—two more casualties of a peak that has claimed over 300 lives to date.

Lost on Everest is a new documentary from National Geographic that seeks to put to rest the question of who was first to the summit once and for all. The gripping account follows an expedition's attempt to locate Irvine's body (lost for over 95 years) and hopefully retrieve the man's camera—and photographic proof that the two men reached the summit.

NatGeo is also premiering a second companion documentary, Expedition Everest, narrated by actor Tate Donovan (MacGyver, Man in the High Castle), following an international team that included multiple scientists as they trek up the mountain. Along the way, team geologists collected sediment samples from the bottom of a Himalayan lake; biologists surveyed the biodiversity at various elevations to track how plants, animals, and insects are adapting to a warming climate; and climate scientists collected ice cores from the highest elevation to date to better understand glacier evolution. Finally, the team installed the world's highest weather station in Everest's infamous "death zone," above 26,000 feet, to gather real-time data on weather conditions at that altitude.

Read 21 remaining paragraphs | Comments

[Category: Gaming & Culture, Science, Mount Everest, national geographic tv, science, television]

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[l] at 6/29/20 10:57am
Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin visits the construction site for the launch pad for the rocket boosters of the Angara family, at the Vostochny Cosmodrome.

Enlarge / Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin visits the construction site for the launch pad for the rocket boosters of the Angara family, at the Vostochny Cosmodrome. (credit: Yegor AleyevTASS via Getty Images)

In recent months, the Russian space industry has talked a good game about its plans for developing new rockets to compete on the international stage.

One of the country's storied rocket engine manufacturers, NPO Energomash, announced it was working on developing a large, methane-fueled rocket engine, named the RD-0177. This engine was part of an overall plan for a "new generation" of rockets. The work comes as three US rocket companies, SpaceX, United Launch Alliance, and Blue Origin, are building their next-generation rockets around methane engines.

Additionally, Russian officials have continued to talk about developing the Soyuz 5 rocket—a medium-lift rocket that is supposed to provide affordable access to space. This booster has been linked to Sea Launch's floating spaceport as well as human launches in the mid-2020s.

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[Category: Science]

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[l] at 6/28/20 8:00am
The polymer, called COP-180, selectively captures gold after it has been leached from e-waste.

Enlarge / The polymer, called COP-180, selectively captures gold after it has been leached from e-waste. (credit: Yeongran Hong)

One thing holding back e-waste recycling is the actual recycling process itself. We need cheaper, safer, cleaner, or more effective methods of separating and recovering the valuable elements from electronics before we can make the whole endeavor more attractive and profitable. Some current methods use large amounts of energy to melt components down, but chemistry could provide some tempting alternatives.

A new study led by Yeongran Hong of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology involves a chemical with an impressive affinity for gold. Subject some circuit boards to an acid treatment to release its materials and this stuff will gather up all the dissolved gold. And after it lets go of that gold, it’s ready to be used again.

The researchers’ gold-scrubber is based on an organic compound called a porphyrin. Linked together in a polymer, it possesses lots and lots of little pores that, energetically, want to host a metal atom. That’s the kind of structure chemists look for to help with recycling.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

[Category: Science, e-waste, polymer, recycling]

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[l] at 6/27/20 8:00am
“Go F’ Yourself”

Enlarge (credit: Getty)

Peer review is often the key hurdle between obtaining some data and getting it published in the scientific literature. As such, it's often essential to keeping questionable results out of the scientific literature. But for vast numbers of scientists with solid-but-unexciting results, it can be a hurdle that raises frustrations to thermonuclear levels. So it's no surprise that many scientists privately wish that certain reviewers would end up engaged in activities that aren't mentionable in a largely family-friendly publication like Ars.

What was a surprise was to see a peer-reviewed publication make this wish public. Very public. As in entitling the paper "Dear Reviewer 2: Go F’ Yourself" levels of public.

Naturally, we read the paper and got in touch with its author, Iowa State's David Peterson, to find out the details of the study. The key detail is that the title is somewhat misleading: it's actually the person who is somewhat randomly assigned to the Reviewer 3 slot who's the heartless bastard who keeps trying to torpedo the careers of other academics. For the rest, well, read on.

Read 17 remaining paragraphs | Comments

[Category: Science, peer review, publishing]

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[l] at 6/27/20 6:00am
Air intake on engine

Enlarge / Mountain Aerospace Research Solution's Fenris engine during its first hotfire last July. (credit: Aaron Davis | Mountain Aerospace Research Solutions)

There's a small airfield about a two-hour drive north of Los Angeles that sits on the edge of a vast expanse of desert and attracts aerospace mavericks like moths to a flame. The Mojave Air & Space Port is home to companies like Scaled Composites, the first to send a private astronaut to space, and Masten Space Systems, which is in the business of building lunar landers. It’s the proving ground for America’s most audacious space projects, and when Aaron Davis and Scott Stegman arrived at the hallowed tarmac last July, they knew they were in the right place.

The two men arrived at the airfield before dawn to set up the test stand for a prototype of their air-breathing rocket engine, a new kind of propulsion system that is a cross between a rocket motor and a jet engine. They call their unholy creation Fenris, and Davis believes that it’s the only way to make getting to space cheap enough for the rest of us. While a conventional rocket engine must carry giant tanks of fuel and oxidizer on its journey to space, an air-breathing rocket motor pulls most of its oxidizer directly from the atmosphere. This means that an air-breathing rocket can lift more stuff with less propellant and drastically lower the cost of space access—at least in theory.

Read 20 remaining paragraphs | Comments

[Category: Science, rocketry, scramjet, space]

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[l] at 6/27/20 4:50am
Doomscrolling is slowly eroding your mental health

Enlarge (credit: Joel Sorrell | Getty Images)

It's 11:37pm and the pattern shows no signs of shifting. At 1:12am, it’s more of the same. Thumb down, thumb up. Twitter, Instagram, and—if you’re feeling particularly wrought/masochistic—Facebook. Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic left a great many people locked down in their homes in early March, the evening ritual has been codifying: Each night ends the way the day began, with an endless scroll through social media in a desperate search for clarity.

To those who have become purveyors of the perverse exercise, like The New York Times’ Kevin Roose, this habit has become known as doomsurfing, or “falling into deep, morbid rabbit holes filled with coronavirus content, agitating myself to the point of physical discomfort, erasing any hope of a good night’s sleep.” For those who prefer their despair be portable, the term is doomscrolling, and as protests over racial injustice and police brutality following the death of George Floyd have joined the COVID-19 crisis in the news cycle, it’s only gotten more intense. The constant stream of news and social media never ends.

Of course, a late-night scroll is nothing new—it’s the kind of thing therapists often hear about when couples say one or the other isn’t providing enough attention. But it used to be that Sunday nights in bed were spent digging through Twitter for Game of Thrones hot takes, or armchair quarterbacking the day’s game. Now, the only thing to binge-watch is the world's collapse into crisis. Coronavirus deaths (473,000 worldwide and counting), unemployment rates (around 13 percent in the US), protesters in the street on any given day marching for racial justice (countless thousands)—the faucet of data runs nonstop. There are unlimited seasons, and the promise of some answer, or perhaps even some good news, always feels one click away.

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[Category: Gaming & Culture, Science, Doomscrolling]

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[l] at 6/26/20 4:33pm
Vice President Mike Pence speaks after leading a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing at the Department of Health and Human Services on June 26, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Enlarge / Vice President Mike Pence speaks after leading a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing at the Department of Health and Human Services on June 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty | Joshua Roberts)

The US logged nearly 40,000 new cases of COVID-19 nationwide Thursday—the highest daily total yet in the course of the pandemic—and many states continue to see an alarming rise in the spread of disease.

Cases have been increasing in 30 states, according to the New York Times’ COVID-19 tracking effort. On Friday, 11 states set their own records for the average number of new cases reported in the past seven days, according to the Washington Post.

Though the rising case counts can sometimes reflect a rise in overall testing, many states are also seeing high and increasing percentages of positive tests—that is, the fraction of test results that come back positive, which is considered a more useful metric for assessing if disease spread is actually increasing. If states increase testing while the spread of COVID-19 stays the same or declines, the fraction of tests coming back positive would gradually decline.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

[Category: Science, arizona, cases, COVID-19, fauci, Florida, Infectious disease, outbreak, pandemic, pence, public health, SARS-CoV-2, testing, texas, Transmission]

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[l] at 6/26/20 11:48am
Tiny pendulum may reveal gravity’s secrets

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images/Christoph Burgstedt/Science Photo Library)

Gravity is, at heart, a mystery. Yes, we can talk about curvature of space-time and perhaps make analogies with stretched rubber sheets. But we don’t know why mass causes space-time to curve.

To put it another way, in our theory of gravity, matter is the scenery and space-time is both cast and stage crew. But matter's behavior is described by quantum mechanics, which takes space and time as a given. For quantum mechanics, space and time are the stage in which matter puts on the best show ever. How do we get these two theories to put on just one play?

Perhaps this is why the two theories simply do not get on—no show can have two lead actors, right? We may finally get to find out thanks to a new experimental device that may make it possible for both gravity and quantum mechanics to play lead roles.

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[Category: Science, gravity, quantum mechanics]

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[l] at 6/26/20 11:16am
  • A Falcon 9 rocket is ready to go for its 10th Starlink mission. [credit: Trevor Mahlmann ]

1:45pm ET Friday Update: SpaceX has scrubbed its Starlink launch attempt for Friday. The company announced the delay by saying on Twitter, "Standing down from today’s Starlink mission; team needed additional time for pre-launch checkouts, but Falcon 9 and the satellites are healthy. Will announce new target launch date once confirmed on the Range."

Original post: SpaceX is preparing for its 10th launch of Starlink satellites on Friday afternoon. The launch on board a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Florida is scheduled for 4:18pm ET (20:18 UTC). The weather outlook for Friday's launch attempt is favorable.

On this 10th launch, it's worth stepping back to realize that, in addition to developing reusable rockets, two different Dragon spacecraft, and working on its ambitious Starship project, SpaceX has also built 600 satellites in the last couple of years. And these are not small CubeSats—each of the Starlink satellites weighs 260kg and has its own on-board propulsion system. This is a pretty remarkable new production capability.

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[Category: Science]

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[l] at 6/26/20 10:51am
A couple looks at the sea as a vast cloud of Sahara dust is blanketing the city of Havana on June 24, 2020. (Photo by YAMIL LAGE/AFP via Getty Images)

Enlarge / A couple looks at the sea as a vast cloud of Sahara dust is blanketing the city of Havana on June 24, 2020. (Photo by YAMIL LAGE/AFP via Getty Images) (credit: Yamil Lage/AFP via Getty Images)

A hot desert wind is carrying a massive cloud of Saharan dust into the Southern United States this week. Dust plumes from the Sahara routinely blow westward across the Atlantic at this time of year, but this event is a doozy—by some measures, the biggest in decades. And a second plume appears to be forming about a week behind the big one.

Across the southeastern US, from the Gulf Coast to the Carolinas and potentially as far north as Indianapolis and Cincinnati, dust effects will likely be visible in the coming days. Trillions of dust grains will reflect sunlight in every direction, creating milky white skies. The dusty haze reflects some sunshine back to space, cooling the surface a bit where the plume is thickest.

Longer waves of red and orange light tend to penetrate the dusty haze, so sunrises and sunsets are likely to be especially beautiful. On the downside, where the plume mingles with showers or thunderstorms, downdrafts may carry desert dust to Earth’s surface. This will impair air quality and could trigger allergic reactions and asthma attacks. The more dust reaches an area, the more pronounced the effects will be.

Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

[Category: Science]

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