[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/16/19 5:30am
An X-15 contrail after launch.

Enlarge / An X-15 contrail after launch. (credit: NASA)

The X-15 was not the first rocket-powered aircraft, but it is probably the best one ever built and flown. Before the first X-15 took flight in the late 1950s, the fastest speed airplanes had reached was Mach 3. The X-15 doubled that. And, remarkably, it also went on to fly into space more than a dozen times.

The US Air Force and NASA developed the X-15 to better understand flight under extreme conditions, including reentry through the Earth’s atmosphere. Yet more than half a century later, the exceptional plane still holds the world record for speed by a piloted, powered aircraft after William Knight flew the vehicle at Mach 6.70 in 1967.

The X-15 program also boasts an exclusive club of pilots—only a dozen aviators can claim to have flown the aircraft, which made 199 flights in total. (They were all men, given the era.) Before he landed on the Moon, Neil Armstrong flew seven X-15 missions between 1960 and 1962. The movie First Man vividly depicts one of these flights.

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[Category: Features, Science]

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[l] at 9/15/19 7:00am
Industrial ocean platform.

Enlarge / This is "Liftboat Myrtle," which housed the drilling operation into Chicxulub Crater. (credit: Jackson School of Geosciences, The University of Texas at Austin)

Geology is a big science. The Earth is a large enough place today, but when you stretch the fourth dimension back across many millions of years, the largeness can get out of hand. Because we lose a lot of detail to the ravages of time, it's very difficult for geology to get small again—to tell us about what happened in individual locations or over short periods of time.

So it's not every day that you read a scientific paper titled "The first day of the Cenozoic." The Cenozoic is the name geologists give to the era spanning the last 66 million years, and it started with the mass extinction event that killed off (most of) the dinosaurs. There were incredible eruptions that contributed to the extinction event and spanned a considerable amount of time.

But the asteroid that struck off the coast of what is the Yucatán Peninsula today was the opposite—it couldn't have been much more sudden. A recent drilling project recovered a long core of rock from the Chicxulub impact crater, leading to greater clarity about how the calamity played out—including on that first day.

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[Category: Science, chicxulub, k-pg mass extinction, k-t mass extinction]

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[l] at 9/15/19 5:30am
Ominous looking skies you've got there...

Enlarge / Ominous looking skies you've got there... (credit: © Emily Graham for Mosaic)

In January 1997, the crew of a fishing vessel in the Baltic Sea found something unusual in their nets: a greasy yellowish-brown lump of clay-like material. They pulled it out, placed it on deck and returned to processing their catch. The next day, the crew fell ill with serious skin burns. Four were hospitalized. The greasy lump was a substance called yperite, better known as sulfur mustard or mustard gas, solidified by the temperature on the sea bed.

At the end of the World War II, the US, British, French and Soviet authorities faced a big problem—how to get rid of some 300,000 tonnes of chemical munitions recovered from occupied Germany. Often, they opted for what seemed the safest, cheapest and easiest method: dumping the stuff out at sea.

Read 67 remaining paragraphs | Comments

[Category: Science, Mosaic, nuclear waste]

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[l] at 9/14/19 6:30am
Definitely not a possible universe-altering fancy trampoline.

Enlarge / Pictured: Definitely not a possible universe-altering fancy trampoline. (credit: Nazar Abbas Photography / Getty Images)

Scientists want to rip the Universe apart. At least that is what a Daily Mail headline might read. Lasers can now reach power in the petawatt range. And, when you focus a laser beam that powerful, nothing survives: all matter is shredded, leaving only electrons and nuclei.

But laser physicists haven’t stopped there. Under good experimental conditions, the very fabric of space and time are torn asunder, testing quantum electrodynamics to destruction. And a new mirror may be all we need to get there.

On average, the amount of power used by humans is about 18 terawatts. A petawatt is 1,000 times larger than a terawatt. The baddest laser on the planet (currently) produces somewhere between 5 and 10 petawatts, and there are plans on the drawing board to reach 100 petawatts in the near future. The trick is that the power is not available all the time. Each of these lasers produces somewhere between 5-5000 J of energy for a very very short time (between a picosecond—10-12s—and a few femtoseconds—10-15s). During that instant, however, the power flow is immense.

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[Category: Science, petawatt lasers, plasma mirrors, quantum electrodynamics]

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[l] at 9/13/19 2:55pm
A man smokes an e-cigarette.

Enlarge / A man smokes an e-cigarette. (credit: Getty | Picture alliance)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated and revised the national tally of illnesses linked to the use of e-cigarettes, aka vaping, dropping the count from 450 possible cases to 380 confirmed and probable cases, the agency announced late Thursday.

The new figure follows a clearer clinical definition for the illness as well as further investigation into individual cases. The 380 confirmed and probable cases now span 36 states and still include six deaths, as reported earlier. The CDC added that the current number of cases “is expected to increase as additional cases are classified.”

While health investigators are clearing the air around the clinical aspect of the cases, the cause is still foggy. Though all the cases are associated with vaping, investigators have struggled to identify specific vape products or ingredients that tie all the cases and symptoms together.

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[Category: Science, addiction, CDC, e-cigarettes, fda, lung illnesses, nicotine, outbreak, smoking, THC, tobacco, vaping]

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[l] at 9/13/19 9:25am
Image of a fuzzy white object on a dark grey field specked with stars.

Enlarge / Comet C/2019 Q4 (Borisov). Note the fuzzy appearance and faint tail. (credit: Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope)

Due to complicated gravitational interactions from planets and other bodies, it's expected that our Solar System has ejected various small bodies like comets and asteroids. Since exosolar systems are likely to do the same, it's thought that the vast distances of interstellar space are sparsely populated by these small bodies. As such, we should expect one of these objects to wander through our Solar System, an expectation that was confirmed in 2017 with the arrival of 'Oumuamua, an odd, cigar-shaped object that shot through the Solar System at an extreme angle.

Now, just two years later, we seem to have our second. Officially termed C/2019 Q4 (Borisov), the comet is approaching the inner Solar System at an angle that almost certainly indicates it didn't originate here.

Hyperbolic orbits

Right now, there's not much public information about C/2019 Q4 (Borisov). A press release from the Jet Propulsion Lab provides some basic details. Discovered on August 30, it takes its name from Gennady Borisov, who spotted it from an observatory in the Crimea. Since then, observations have firmed up its orbit, indicating that it will make its closest approach to the Sun in December, passing no closer than Mars' orbit.

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[Category: Science, astronomy, comets, extrasolar objects, interstellar objects]

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[l] at 9/12/19 5:00pm
A "Moment of Science" in the 2017 Ig Nobel ceremony: Daniel Davis faces a Tesla coil.

Enlarge / A "Moment of Science" in the 2017 Ig Nobel ceremony: Daniel Davis faces a Tesla coil. (credit: Mike Binveniste/Improbable Research)

Over the years, curious intrepid scientists have gleaned insight into why the wombat's poo is cube-shaped, explored the magnetic properties of living and dead cockroaches, and determined that a man's left testicle really does run hotter than the right. These and other unusual research topics were honored tonight in a ceremony at Harvard University's Sanders Theater to announce the 2019 recipients of the annual Ig Nobel Prizes.

Established in 1991, the Ig Nobels are a good-natured parody of the Nobel Prizes and honor "achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think." The unapologetically campy award ceremony features mini-operas, scientific demos, and the 24/7 lectures, whereby experts must explain their work twice: once in 24 seconds, and the second in just seven words. Acceptance speeches are limited to 60 seconds. And as the motto implies, the research being honored might seem ridiculous at first glance, but that doesn't mean it is devoid of scientific merit.

The winners receive eternal Ig Nobel fame and a ten-trillion dollar bill from Zimbabwe. It's a long-running Ig Nobel gag. Zimbabwe stopped using its native currency in 2009 because of skyrocketing inflation and hyperinflation; at its nadir, the 100-trillion dollar bill was roughly the equivalent of 40 cents US. (Earlier this year the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe introduced the "zollar" as a potential replacement.) The 2009 Ig Nobel Prize for Mathematics was awarded to the then-head of the RBZ, Gideon Gono, "for giving people a simple, everyday way to cope with a wide range of numbers — from very small to very big — by having his bank print bank notes with denominations ranging from one cent ($.01) to one hundred trillion dollars ($100,000,000,000,000)."

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[Category: Science, Biology, Ig Nobel Prizes, medicine, Physics, science, science humor]

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[l] at 9/12/19 1:00pm
Graphic of a cloudy blue planet and its host star.

Enlarge / An artist's impression of the planet K2-18b and its clouds. (credit: ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser)

On Wednesday, astronomers announced the first detection of water in the atmosphere of a planet that orbits within the habitable zone of its host star. The planet, K2-18b, is certainly not habitable by us, as it's a mini-Neptune that may not have any solid surface and is likely to have a hydrogen/helium-rich atmosphere. But the discovery of water vapor and clouds confirms expectations that the Earth isn't necessarily special in having water at a distance from its star where that water could be liquid.

Big planet, small star

As the planet's designation indicates, K2-18b was discovered during the extended second mission of the Kepler space telescope. After the failure of some of the telescope's pointing hardware, NASA figured out how to keep the optics stable by using its solar panels. This allowed Kepler to examine additional areas of the sky during what was termed the K2 mission.

K2-18b is a large planet, as follow-on observations have indicated its mass is over eight times that of Earth's. It's close enough to its host star that it only takes 33 days to complete an orbit. But, because the host star is much smaller and cooler than the Sun, that means K2-18b only gets slightly more light than Earth does (1,441 Watts/square meter versus 1,370 for Earth). That's consistent with the planet having a temperature that allows liquid water to exist.

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[Category: Science, astronomy, exoplanets, habitable zone, planetary science, water vapor]

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[l] at 9/12/19 9:40am
An illustration of the Earth, with lines circling the globe to represent a telecommunications network.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Olena_T)

SpaceX says it plans to change its satellite launch strategy in a way that will speed up deployment of its Starlink broadband service and has set a new goal of providing broadband in the Southern United States late next year.

In a filing on August 30, SpaceX asked the Federal Communications Commission for permission to "adjust the orbital spacing of its satellites." With this change, each SpaceX launch would deploy satellites in "three different orbital planes" instead of just one, "accelerating the process of deploying satellites covering a wider service area."

"This adjustment will accelerate coverage to southern states and US territories, potentially expediting coverage to the southern continental United States by the end of the next hurricane season and reaching other US territories by the following hurricane season," SpaceX told the FCC. The Atlantic and Pacific hurricane seasons each begin in the spring and run to November 30 each year.

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[Category: Biz & IT, Science, satellite broadband, spacex, starlink]

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[l] at 9/12/19 8:19am
Black-market THC-vape operation busted in Wisconsin, police say

(credit: Ecig Click)

Authorities in Wisconsin say they’ve busted an alleged large-scale operation making tens of thousands of bootleg THC-containing vape products. Authorities seized over $1.5 million worth of THC product from a single residence late last week.

In a press conference Wednesday, the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department announced that local authorities made the bust after serving “knock and announce” search warrants at two locations in the county. At one property, police seized approximately 31,200 vape cartridges, each filled with 1 gram of oil containing tetrahydrocannabinol (aka THC, the psycho-active ingredient in cannabis). They also seized 98,000 unfilled vape cartridges, 57 Mason jars filled with approximately 1,616 ounces of refined liquid THC, and approximately eighteen pounds of marijuana.

Police are holding Tyler T. Huffhines, 20, on several charges, including possession with intent to manufacture, distribute, or deliver more than 10,000 grams of cannabis product. Authorities also arrested his brother, Jacob D. Huffhines, 23, for cocaine and firearm possession.

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[Category: Policy, Science, cannabis, CDC, disease, illicit drugs, marijuana, outbreak, THC, vape, Wisconsin]

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[l] at 9/11/19 2:40pm
President Donald Trump displaying a doctored forecast map that incorrectly shows Hurricane Dorian hitting Alabama.

Enlarge / President Donald Trump displaying a doctored forecast map at the White House on September 04, 2019 in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty Images | Chip Somodevilla )

The White House pressured the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration into backing President Trump over weather forecasters who disputed Trump's incorrect claim that Hurricane Dorian would likely strike Alabama, according to news reports.

"Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, told Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, to have the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration publicly disavow the forecasters' position that Alabama was not at risk," the New York Times reported today, citing anonymous sources. Ross then warned NOAA "that top employees at the agency could be fired if the situation was not addressed," the Times wrote.

Mulvaney took this action after "President Trump told his staff that the [NOAA] needed to correct a tweet that seemed to contradict his statement that Hurricane Dorian posed a significant threat to Alabama as of Sept. 1," the Washington Post wrote in an article on the same topic. There are now multiple investigations into whether the NOAA's scientific integrity and independence were undermined.

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[Category: Policy, Science, Alabama, Hurricane Dorian, NOAA, Trump]

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[l] at 9/11/19 9:51am
Archaeologists unearth mass graves from Mongol invasion of Russia

Enlarge (credit: Institute of Archaeology, Russian Academy of Sciences)

Archaeologists excavated part of the old city center of Yaroslavl, Russia, between 2005 and 2010 as part of an effort to restore its cathedral. During the digs, they discovered nine medieval mass graves holding the remains of at least 300 people, dating from the sack of the city by Mongols. It took another several years for their bones, the ancient DNA preserved within them, and some centuries-old blowfly larvae, to reveal a family tragedy set against the wider backdrop of Mongol expansion.

Fire and bodies lying in the snow

In the first half of the 1200s, Mongol leader Batu Khan (the grandson of Genghis Khan) conquered parts of modern-day Russia, Eastern Europe, and the Caucasus, adding them to what became known as the Golden Horde. He swept westward with an army of 130,000 soldiers, and for the cities in his path, the only options were surrender or slaughter. Smolensk opted to surrender and pay tribute to the Khanate, but 18 other cities—including Moscow and the capital of the principality that, at the time, ruled Yaroslavl—fell to fire and the sword.

The Mongol army reached Yaroslavl in February 1238. Many of the people buried in the mass graves afterward had clearly died violently; their bones carried the marks of stabbing, cutting, and blunt trauma. Some of the bones also showed signs of having been burned, probably in the fire that accompanied the attack, according to historical documents and archaeological evidence. Several of the graves had been the basements of houses and outbuildings; after the buildings burned down in the fire, the survivors or the conquerors found the exposed basements convenient places to dispose of the dead.

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[Category: Science, Archaeology, forensic archaeology, mass grave, medieval Europe, medieval warfare, mongolian empire, osteology, science]

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[l] at 9/11/19 4:45am
Partial view of the Dead Sea Temple Scroll, one of the longest biblical texts found since the 1940s.

Enlarge / Partial view of the Dead Sea Temple Scroll, one of the longest biblical texts found since the 1940s. (credit: Michael Kappeler/AFP/Getty Images)

A team of MIT scientists studied a fragment of one of the famous Dead Sea Scrolls and found the parchment has an unusual coating of sulfate salts. This may be one reason the scrolls were so well-preserved, but it also means the delicate parchments might be more vulnerable to small shifts in humidity than originally thought. The researchers described their work in a recent paper in Science Advances, noting that better understanding of the ancient techniques used to make parchment could also prove useful for spotting Dead Sea Scroll forgeries.

These ancient Hebrew texts—roughly 900 full and partial scrolls in all, stored in clay jars—were first discovered scattered in various caves near what was once the settlement of Qumran, just north of the Dead Sea, by Bedouin shepherds in 1946-1947. Qumran was destroyed by the Romans, circa 73 CE, and historians believe the scrolls were hidden in the caves by a sect called the Essenes to protect them from being destroyed. The natural limestone and conditions within the caves helped preserve the scrolls for millennia; they date back to between the third century BC and the first century CE.

Co-author Admir Masic, now at MIT, has a longstanding interest in the parchment used for the Dead Sea Scrolls (along with other ancient materials) dating back to his graduate studies in Italy. The scrolls have shown signs of degradation since they were first discovered and moved from the caves into museums, probably arising from early scholarly efforts to soften them up to make them easier to unroll. Scientists like Masic are keen to learn more about them in hopes of slowing or stopping that degradation.

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[Category: Science, Archaeology, chemistry, dead sea scrolls, materials science, science]

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[l] at 9/10/19 4:30pm
Color photo of Neanderthal footprints in sand, along with a single Neanderthal handprint and an animal track.

Enlarge / These prints (except the one identified as an animal track) were made by Neanderthals who lived in Western France 80,000 years ago. (credit: Image courtesy of Dominique Cliquet)

A group of footprints left behind in muddy sands 80,000 years ago gives us a better idea of what a Neanderthal social group would have looked like long before Homo sapiens showed up to ruin the neighborhood.

A Stone Age slice of life

A rapidly growing set of archaeological evidence tells us that Neanderthals thought symbolically, made art and jewelry, buried their dead, and probably tended to their sick and wounded. We have direct evidence of what they ate, what kinds of tools they used, and how they made those tools. But when it comes to what kinds of groups they lived in and how those groups were organized, the best anthropologists can do is look at how modern hunter-gatherers live in similar conditions. If Neanderthals lived like hunter-gatherers live today, they probably spent most of their time in groups of between 10 and 30 people, mostly relatives, made up of a mixture of adults and children.

That lines up well with estimates of how many people could have lived in some of the Neanderthal living areas archaeologists have excavated. Those are good ways to develop ideas about Neanderthal social groups, but they're still indirect. On the other hand (ha!), archaeological evidence doesn't get much more direct than footprints.

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[Category: Science, Archaeology, footprints, hominins, hunter gatherers, Neanderthals, pleistocene]

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[l] at 9/10/19 2:49pm
  • Three new studies, available on the Research app later this fall, will explore new areas of medical research. [credit: Apple ]

Apple announced three new health studies Tuesday that will address issues of hearing, heart health, and women's health as it relates to menstrual cycles and reproduction.

The studies are part of a continued push by the company to make waves in the health and medical realm. In a January interview, Apple CEO Tim Cook said he expected the company's health-related work to become its lasting legacy and "greatest contribution to mankind."

"Our business has always been about enriching people's lives," he explained.

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[Category: Science, Tech, apple, carekit, Health, health apps, research]

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[l] at 9/10/19 2:35pm
Image of a pig farm.

Enlarge / Livestock production has become one of the United States' largest sources of particulate pollution. (credit: Wikimedia Commons/Jessica Reeder)

Many economic activities create what are called "externalities": costs that aren't accounted for in their products but are paid for by society at large. Pollution is a major source of externalities, as it can lower the value of property, force people to spend money on medical costs, and even lead to early deaths.

Air pollution is estimated to have caused more than 100,000 early deaths in 2016. Most of these have come due to what are called fine particulates, which are small particles that can be readily inhaled and cause issues like stroke, heart disease, and lung ailments. So a group of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University decided to do an economic analysis of the issue for the United States. The researchers compared the costs of premature deaths from particulate pollution to the value added by the economic activity that produced the pollution to find out which polluting industries might provide a net benefit to the economy.

Their analysis showed that the electricity sector had recently caused more in particulate mortality costs than its direct contributions to the economy. But that has now changed thanks to the drop in coal use, which has left farming as the only major activity that generates more costs than its direct benefits.

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[Category: Science, agriculture, death, Economics, electricity, particulates, pollution, power generation, public health, transportation]

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[l] at 9/10/19 1:21pm
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 25: A young man wears a shirt that reads DITCHJUUL while James Monsees, co-founder and chief product officer at JUUL Labs Inc., testifies before the House Economic and Consumer Policy Subcommittee, which is examining JUUL's role in the youth nicotine epidemic, on July 25, 2019 in Washington, DC.
 (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Enlarge / WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 25: A young man wears a shirt that reads DITCHJUUL while James Monsees, co-founder and chief product officer at JUUL Labs Inc., testifies before the House Economic and Consumer Policy Subcommittee, which is examining JUUL's role in the youth nicotine epidemic, on July 25, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images) (credit: Getty | Mark Wilson)

The Food and Drug Administration on Monday came out swinging at e-cigarette giant Juul over a variety of its unproven safety claims and startling marketing practices—most notably saying without evidence that its products are safer than smoking traditional cigarettes and giving presentations directly to kids in schools—in at least one alleged case, without teachers present or parental consent.

“Regardless of where products like e-cigarettes fall on the continuum of tobacco product risk, the law is clear that, before marketing tobacco products for reduced risk, companies must demonstrate with scientific evidence that their specific product does in fact pose less risk or is less harmful,” acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Ned Sharpless said in a statement Monday. “JUUL has ignored the law, and very concerningly, has made some of these statements in school to our nation’s youth.”

In response, the agency sent Juul a warning letter over unauthorized marketing as well as a letter of concern (PDF), which included a request for reams of documents “regarding JUUL’s marketing, advertising, promotional, and education campaigns, as well as certain product development activity.”

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[Category: Science, addiction, CDC, e-cigarettes, fda, juul, nicotine, public health, vaping, Youth]

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[l] at 9/10/19 9:37am
President Donald Trump has continued to insist Alabama was threatened by Hurricane Dorian.

Enlarge / President Donald Trump has continued to insist Alabama was threatened by Hurricane Dorian. (credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

A soft-spoken, contrite, and at times emotional Neil Jacobs, acting head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, addressed the annual meeting of the National Weather Association on Tuesday morning in Huntsville, Alabama. Intertwining anecdotes on his own career path with comments about Hurricane Dorian, Jacobs expressed his support for the National Weather Service in the wake of the storm. "Weather should not be a partisan issue," Jacobs emphasized toward the end of his speech.

The weather community has been buffeted by a storm of its own following President Donald Trump's insistence that his comments about Dorian threatening Alabama were valid (although they were not, and in fact were a distraction to forecasters), his doctoring of a forecast map, the issuance of a questionable, unsigned statement from NOAA on Friday, and reports that Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross threatened to fire top employees at NOAA after the agency’s Birmingham office contradicted President Trump’s claim.

"(Friday's) statement did not say that we understand and fully support the good intent of the Birmingham office to calm fears and support public safety," Jacobs said, adding he was proud of the work of all National Weather Service forecast offices. He also acted to reassure Weather Service employees that their jobs, and how they perform them, are not in jeopardy. "There is no pressure to change the way you communicate forecast risk into the future," Jacobs noted.

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[Category: Science]

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[l] at 9/10/19 7:49am
If the ExoMars spacecraft successfully lands on Mars, it will deploy the Rosalind Franklin rover.

Enlarge / If the ExoMars spacecraft successfully lands on Mars, it will deploy the Rosalind Franklin rover. (credit: ESA)

In October 2016, Europe's small Schiaparelli lander entered the Martian atmosphere and attempted to touch down on the surface of the red planet. Due to an altitude measurement error, however, the lander's parachute system was released early, and the lander crashed into Mars.

When it comes to Mars, this was just another in a long line of failures. Of the 21 landers sent by humans to Mars over the last six decades, only eight have successfully reached the red planet's surface and conducted science operations—all of which were built and launched by NASA.

Now, the European Space Agency is trying again, with its ExoMars mission due to be launched on a Proton rocket next summer. According to the space agency, the European-built Rosalind Franklin rover and the Russian-led surface platform, Kazachok, are nearly complete. They are due to go down to the Martian surface in a descent module. This spacecraft has a rather complicated sequence of parachute releases to slow the lander's descent through the thin Martian atmosphere.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

[Category: Science]

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[l] at 9/9/19 5:40pm
Dr. Robert Sears examines 2-month-old twins. Sears is among the doctors who have been found to have issued fraudulent medical vaccination exemptions.

Enlarge / Dr. Robert Sears examines 2-month-old twins. Sears is among the doctors who have been found to have issued fraudulent medical vaccination exemptions. (credit: Getty | Don Bartletti)

Hundreds of dubious medical exemptions handed out by California’s infamous anti-vaccine pediatrician, Dr. Robert Sears, would be revoked under fresh amendments to a state bill designed to boost vaccination rates.

The bill’s author, state Senator (and MD) Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), came to an agreement on the amendments late last week with California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The bill, SB 276, aims to crack down on bogus medical exemptions, which surged in the wake of the state’s 2015 law eliminating vaccine exemptions based on personal and religious beliefs. Dr. Pan was prompted to author the bill after discovering that some “unscrupulous” doctors had been exempting children from vaccine requirements based on questionable or outright sham medical reasons—sometimes for hefty fees. The exemptions left some communities under-protected from vaccine-preventable illnesses.

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[Category: Science, anti-vaccine, medical exemptions, vaccine, vaccine exemptions]

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[l] at 9/9/19 7:25am
NASA chief Jim Bridenstine has been looking for a new Associate Administrator for human spaceflight.

Enlarge / NASA chief Jim Bridenstine has been looking for a new Associate Administrator for human spaceflight. (credit: NASA)

Nearly two months have now passed since NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine essentially fired Bill Gerstenmaier, the agency's chief of human spaceflight. Since then, Bridenstine has been winnowing a field of potential candidates for this critical position at NASA—a position which has oversight of all human spaceflight activities, including the space station, commercial crew, and Artemis lunar programs.

The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel on Friday urged Bridenstine to move quickly on finding a qualified replacement for the highly respected Gerstenmaier.

"It is important to recognize the sense of uncertainty that accompanies a vacuum in a key leadership position and address the need for stable and credible direction for the future," said panel chair Patricia Sanders during a meeting at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "NASA personnel are continuing to move forward and progress on the programs of record. It’s in their DNA. But having positive confirmation of the specific direction from a permanent leader is imperative. And a sense of uncertainty should not be allowed to linger during this critical time."

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[Category: Science, bridenstine, gerstenmaier, NASA]

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