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[l] at 5/21/24 4:28pm
Enlarge / Trial participant Sherown Campbell manipulating a Rubik's Cube. (credit: UP-LIFT Trial) With a zap of electricity from well-placed electrodes on the back of the neck, patients with tetraplegia can regain some modest yet potentially "life-changing" functioning of their hands and arms, according to data from a small clinical trial published Monday in Nature Medicine. The relatively simple stimulation method—which requires no surgery—offers an accessible, more affordable, non-invasive means for those living with paralysis to regain some meaningful function, the researchers behind the trial say. However, the therapy's further potential remains limited given that scientists have yet to fully understand exactly why it works. For the trial, 60 patients with tetraplegia underwent the stimulation therapy over at least 24 sessions during a two-month period. At the end, 72 percent (43 patients) saw clinically meaningful improvements in both strength and functional performance. Further, 90 percent (54 patients) saw improvement from at least one strength or functional outcome. There were no serious adverse events reported.Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

[Category: Health, Science, ARM, hand, non-invasive, paralysis, quadriplegia, spinal cord, spinal cord injury, stimulator, tetraplegia]

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[l] at 5/21/24 3:30pm
Enlarge (credit: Yaorusheng) It doesn't take a lot of energy to dig up coal or pump oil from the ground. In contrast, most renewable sources of energy involve obtaining and refining resources, sophisticated manufacturing, and installation. So, at first glance, when it comes to the energy used to get more energy—the energy return on investment—fossil fuels seem like a clear winner. That has led some to argue that transitioning to renewables will create an overall drop in net energy production, which nobody is interested in seeing. A new study by researchers at the UK's University of Leeds, however, suggests that this isn't a concern at all—in most countries, renewables already produce more net energy than the fossil fuels they're displacing. The key to understanding why is that it's much easier to do useful things with electricity than it is with a hunk of coal or a glob of crude oil. Energy efficiency and utility The basic idea behind the new work is that while it's energetically cheap to extract fossil fuels, the stuff that comes out of the ground isn't ready to be put to use. There are energetic costs to making it into a useful form and transporting it to where it's needed, and then there is lost energy when it's being put to use. That's especially notable for uses like internal combustion engines, where significantly less than half of the energy available in gasoline actually gets converted into motion.Read 18 remaining paragraphs | Comments

[Category: Science, Energy, green, green energy, renewable energy, sustainability]

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[l] at 5/21/24 2:08pm
Enlarge / SpaceX's fourth full-scale Starship rocket undergoes a fueling test Monday. (credit: SpaceX) After three test flights, SpaceX has shown that the world's most powerful rocket can reach space. Now, engineers must demonstrate the company's next-generation Starship vehicle can get back home. This will be the central objective for the fourth Starship test flight, which could happen as soon as early June, according to Elon Musk, SpaceX's founder and CEO. "Starship Flight 4 in about 2 weeks," Musk posted on X, his social media platform, following a Starship countdown rehearsal Monday at the Starship launch site in South Texas. "Primary goal is getting through max reentry heating."Read 26 remaining paragraphs | Comments

[Category: Science, Space, artemis, Commercial space, human landing system, launch, NASA, orbital refueling, spacex, Starbase, starship, starship ift-4]

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[l] at 5/21/24 8:13am
Enlarge / Aftermath of a nova at the star GK Persei. (credit: NASA/CXC/RIKEN/STScI/NRAO/VLA) When you look at the northern sky, you can follow the arm of the Big Dipper as it arcs around toward the bright star called Arcturus. Roughly in the middle of that arc, you'll find the Northern Crown constellation, which looks a bit like a smiley face. Sometime between now and September, if you look to the left-hand side of the Northern Crown, what will look like a new star will shine for five days or so. This star system is called T. Coronae Borealis, also known as the Blaze Star, and most of the time, it is way too dim to be visible to the naked eye. But once roughly every 80 years, a violent thermonuclear explosion makes it over 10,000 times brighter. The last time it happened was in 1946, so now it’s our turn to see it. Neighborhood litterbug “The T. Coronae Borealis is a binary system. It is actually two stars,” said Gerard Van Belle, the director of science at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. One of these stars is a white dwarf, an old star that has already been through its fusion-powered lifecycle. “It’s gone from being a main sequence star to being a giant star. And in the case of giant stars, what happens is their outer parts eventually get kind of pushed into outer space. What’s left behind is a leftover core of the star—that’s called a white dwarf,” Van Belle explained.Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

[Category: Science, astronomy, astrophysics, nova, white dwarf]

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[l] at 5/21/24 5:00am
Enlarge / Scientists have determined the system to be evidence of an ongoing merger of two galaxies and their massive black holes when the Universe was only 740 million years old. (credit: ESA/Webb, NASA, CSA et. al) Welcome to the Daily Telescope. There is a little too much darkness in this world and not enough light, a little too much pseudoscience and not enough science. We'll let other publications offer you a daily horoscope. At Ars Technica, we're going to take a different route, finding inspiration from very real images of a universe that is filled with stars and wonder. Good morning. It's May 21, and today's photo comes from the James Webb Space Telescope. It showcases the coming together of two massive black holes in the early Universe, just 740 million years after the Big Bang. Each of the black holes has an estimated mass of roughly 50 million times the mass of our star, the Sun. The discovery of this merger so early in the Universe indicates that the growth of these objects in the centers of galaxies occurred very rapidly.Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

[Category: Science, Space, daily telescope, space]

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[l] at 5/20/24 3:50pm
Enlarge (credit: Getty Images) If things ultimately work out as hoped, brain implants will ultimately restore communication for those who have become paralyzed due to injury or disease. But we're a long way from that future, and the implants are currently limited to testing in clinical trials. One of those clinical trials, based at the University of California, San Francisco, has now inadvertently revealed something about how the brain handles language, because one of the patients enrolled in the trial was bilingual, using English and Spanish. By tracking activity in the area of the brain where the intention to speak gets translated into control over the vocal tract, researchers found that both languages produce consistent signals in this area, so training the system to pick up English phrases would help improve its recognition of Spanish. Making some noise Understanding bilingualism is obviously useful for understanding how the brain handles language in general. The new paper describing the work also points out that restoring communications in multiple languages should be a goal for restoring communications to people. Bilingual people will often change languages based on different social situations or sometimes do so within a sentence in order to express themselves more clearly. They often describe bilingual abilities as a key component of their personalities.Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

[Category: Science, Biology, brain, brain implants, language, medicine, Neuroscience]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 5/20/24 3:50pm
Enlarge (credit: Getty Images) If things ultimately work out as hoped, brain implants will ultimately restore communication for those who have become paralyzed due to injury or disease. But we're a long way from that future, and the implants are currently limited to testing in clinical trials. One of those clinical trials, based at the University of California, San Francisco, has now inadvertently revealed something about how the brain handles language, because one of the patients enrolled in the trial was bilingual, using English and Spanish. By tracking activity in the area of the brain where the intention to speak gets translated into control over the vocal tract, researchers found that both languages produce consistent signals in this area, so training the system to pick up English phrases would help improve its recognition of Spanish. Making some noise Understanding bilingualism is obviously useful for understanding how the brain handles language in general. The new paper describing the work also points out that restoring communications in multiple languages should be a goal for restoring communications to people. Bilingual people will often change languages based on different social situations or sometimes do so within a sentence in order to express themselves more clearly. They often describe bilingual abilities as a key component of their personalities.Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

[Category: Science, Biology, brain, brain implants, language, medicine, Neuroscience]

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[l] at 5/20/24 12:48pm
Enlarge / A Neuralink implant. (credit: Neuralink) Only about 15 percent of the electrode-bearing threads implanted in the brain of Neuralink's first human brain-chip patient continue to work properly, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. The remaining 85 percent of the threads became displaced, and many of the threads that were left receiving little to no signals have been shut off. In a May 8 blog post, Neuralink had disclosed that "a number" of the chip's 64 thinner-than-hair threads had retracted. Each thread carries multiple electrodes, totaling 1,024 across the threads, which are surgically implanted near neurons of interest to record signals that can be decoded into intended actions. Neuralink was quick to note that it was able to adjust the algorithm used for decoding those neuronal signals to compensate for the lost electrode data. The adjustments were effective enough to regain and then exceed performance on at least one metric—the bits-per-second (BPS) rate used to measure how quickly and accurately a patient with an implant can control a computer cursor.Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

[Category: Health, Science, brain chip, brain-computer interface, Elon Musk, nerualink, threads]

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[l] at 5/20/24 12:33pm
Enlarge / A 133-car coal train moves slowly as it's loaded at the Buckskin Coal Mine in 2006 in Gillette, Wyoming. (credit: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images) This article originally appeared on Inside Climate News, a nonprofit, independent news organization that covers climate, energy, and the environment. It is republished with permission. Sign up for their newsletter here.  The Bureau of Land Management announced Thursday that it would no longer make federally managed lands in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin available for new coal mining leases, drawing condemnation from the fossil fuel industry in the region that produces the most coal in the country, but delivering a boon to the nation’s clean energy transition. The Powder River Basin, a geological formation that covers much of northeast Wyoming and a portion of southeast Montana, has been the nation’s largest source of coal for decades, with production there peaking in 2008. Since then, demand for coal has plummeted, largely due to the rise of natural gas and renewable energy. Taking federal coal off the table in the basin could all but put an expiration date on the nation’s thermal coal industry.Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

[Category: Policy, Science, Bureau of Land Management, coal, fossil fuels, syndication]

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[l] at 5/20/24 11:16am
Enlarge / Ed Dwight, 90, exits Blue Origin's crew capsule Sunday after a 10-minute flight to the edge of space. (credit: Blue Origin) More than 60 years after he was denied an opportunity to become America's first Black astronaut, Ed Dwight finally traveled into space Sunday with five other passengers on a 10-minute flight inside a Blue Origin capsule. Dwight, a retired Air Force captain and test pilot, had a chance to become the first African American astronaut. He was one of 26 pilots the Air Force recommended to NASA for the third class of astronauts in 1963, but the agency didn't select him. It took another 20 years for America's first Black astronaut, Guion Bluford, to fly in space in 1983. “Everything they did, I did, and I did it well," Dwight said in a video released by Blue Origin. "If politics had changed, I would have gone to space in some kind of capacity.”Read 17 remaining paragraphs | Comments

[Category: Science, Space, blue origin, Commercial space, ed Dwight, human spaceflight, launch, new shepard, ns-25]

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[l] at 5/20/24 11:00am
Enlarge / Hurricane Dorian's satellite appearance on a Sunday morning in 2019. (credit: NOAA) Later this week, the US federal agency charged with weather forecasting will release its outlook for the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season at a news conference in Washington, DC. But we already know what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecast will say: This year will likely be extremely active in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea. The Atlantic season formally begins on June 1, and based on current trends, the first named storm may not develop until the middle of the month or later. But make no mistake—when the light switches on later this summer, the season is likely to be a blockbuster. Why? Because the oceans are screaming at us.Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

[Category: Science, hurricane forecast]

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[l] at 5/20/24 10:23am
Enlarge / An oceangoing scientific drilling vessel may be needed to figure out how huge undersea aquifers formed. (credit: Credit: IODP) One-quarter of the world’s population is currently water-stressed, using up almost their entire fresh water supply each year. The UN predicts that by 2030, this will climb to two-thirds of the population. Freshwater is perhaps the world’s most essential resource, but climate change is enhancing its scarcity. An unexpected source may have the potential to provide some relief: offshore aquifers, giant undersea bodies of rock or sediment that hold and transport freshwater. But researchers don’t know how the water gets there, a question that needs to be resolved if we want to understand how to manage the water stored in them. For decades, scientists have known about an aquifer off the US East Coast. It stretches from Martha’s Vineyard to New Jersey and holds almost as much water as two Lake Ontarios. Research presented at the American Geophysical Union conference in December attempted to explain where the water came from—a key step in finding out where other undersea aquifers lie hidden around the world.Read 25 remaining paragraphs | Comments

[Category: Science, aquifers, Earth science, fresh water, geology, glaciers]

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[l] at 5/20/24 6:04am
Enlarge / SpaceX's Starship tower (left) at Launch Complex 39A dwarfs the launch pad for the Falcon 9 rocket (right). (credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani) There are a couple of ways to read the announcement from the Federal Aviation Administration that it's kicking off a new environmental review of SpaceX's plan to launch the most powerful rocket in the world from Florida. The FAA said on May 10 that it plans to develop an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for SpaceX's proposal to launch Starships from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The FAA ordered this review after SpaceX updated the regulatory agency on the projected Starship launch rate and the design of the ground infrastructure needed at Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A), the historic launch pad once used for Apollo and Space Shuttle missions. Dual environmental reviews At the same time, the US Space Force is overseeing a similar EIS for SpaceX's proposal to take over a launch pad at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, a few miles south of LC-39A. This launch pad, designated Space Launch Complex 37 (SLC-37), is available for use after United Launch Alliance's last Delta rocket lifted off there in April.Read 56 remaining paragraphs | Comments

[Category: Features, Science, Space, artemis, cape canaveral, Commercial space, Federal Aviation Administration, Kennedy Space Center, launch, launch complex 39a, NASA, spacex, starship]

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[l] at 5/19/24 5:55am
Enlarge / The surface of Ryugu. Image credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, Aizu University, AIST (credit: JAXA) An asteroid that has been wandering through space for billions of years is going to have been bombarded by everything from rocks to radiation. Billions of years of traveling through interplanetary space increases the odds of colliding with something in the vast emptiness, and at least one of those impacts had enough force to leave the asteroid Ryugu forever changed. When the Japanese Space Agency’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft touched down on Ryugu, it collected samples from the surface that revealed that particles of magnetite (which is usually magnetic) in the asteroid’s regolith are devoid of magnetism. A team of researchers from Hokkaido University and several other institutions in Japan are now offering an explanation for how this material lost most of its magnetic properties. Their analysis showed that it was caused by at least one high-velocity micrometeoroid collision that broke the magnetite’s chemical structure down so that it was no longer magnetic. “We surmised that pseudo-magnetite was created [as] the result of space weathering by micrometeoroid impact,” the researchers, led by Hokkaido University professor Yuki Kimura, said in a study recently published in Nature Communications.Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

[Category: Science, asteroid, astronomy, magneticsm, planetary science, Ryugu]

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[l] at 5/18/24 5:31am
Enlarge (credit: SEAN GLADWELL) Unraveling how consciousness arises out of particular configurations of organic matter is a quest that has absorbed scientists and philosophers for ages. Now, with AI systems behaving in strikingly conscious-looking ways, it is more important than ever to get a handle on who and what is capable of experiencing life on a conscious level. As Christof Koch writes in Then I Am Myself the World, "That you are intimately acquainted with the way life feels is a brute fact about the world that cries out for an explanation." His explanation—bounded by the limits of current research and framed through Koch’s preferred theory of consciousness—is what he eloquently attempts to deliver. Koch, a physicist, neuroscientist, and former president of the Allen Institute for Brain Science, has spent his career hunting for the seat of consciousness, scouring the brain for physical footprints of subjective experience. It turns out that the posterior hot zone, a region in the back of the neocortex, is intricately connected to self-awareness and experiences of sound, sight, and touch. Dense networks of neocortical neurons in this area connect in a looped configuration; output signals feedback into input neurons, allowing the posterior hot zone to influence its own behavior. And herein, Koch claims, lies the key to consciousness. In the hot zone According to integrated information theory (IIT)—which Koch strongly favors over a multitude of contending theories of consciousness—the Rosetta Stone of subjective experience is the ability of a system to influence itself: to use its past state to affect its present state and its present state to influence its future state.Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

[Category: Science, altered, consciousness, Neuroscience, psychedelics, psychology]

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[l] at 5/17/24 4:08pm
Enlarge / Packaging for Wegovy, manufactured by Novo Nordisk, is seen in this illustration photo. (credit: Getty | Jakub Porzycki) With the debut of remarkably effective weight-loss drugs, America's high obesity rate and its uniquely astronomical prescription drug pricing appear to be set on a catastrophic collision course—one that threatens to "bankrupt our entire health care system," according to a new Senate report that modeled the economic impact of the drugs in different uptake scenarios. If just half of the adults in the US with obesity start taking a new weight-loss drug, such as Wegovy, the collective cost would total an estimated $411 billion per year, the analysis found. That's more than the $406 billion Americans spent in 2022 on all prescription drugs combined. While the bulk of the spending on weight-loss drugs will occur in the commercial market—which could easily lead to spikes in health insurance premiums—taxpayer-funded Medicare and Medicaid programs will also see an extraordinary financial burden. In the scenario that half of adults with obesity go on the drug, the cost to those federal programs would total $166 billion per year, rivaling the programs' total 2022 drug costs of $175 billion.Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

[Category: Health, Science, bernie sanders, GLP-1, health care costs, medicaid, Medicare, premiums, wegovy, weight loss]

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[l] at 5/17/24 2:59pm
Enlarge / A kitty named Clover prepares to play with a robot arm in the Cat Royale "multi-species" science/art installation . (credit: Blast Theory - Stephen Daly) Cats and robots are a winning combination, as evidenced by all those videos of kitties riding on Roombas. And now we have Cat Royale, a "multispecies" live installation in which three cats regularly "played" with a robot over 12 days, carefully monitored by human operators. Created by computer scientists from the University of Nottingham in collaboration with artists from a group called Blast Theory, the installation debuted at the World Science Festival in Brisbane, Australia, last year and is now a touring exhibit. The accompanying YouTube video series recently won a Webby Award, and a paper outlining the insights gleaned from the experience was similarly voted best paper at the recent Computer-Human Conference (CHI’24). "At first glance, the project is about designing a robot to enrich the lives of a family of cats by playing with them," said co-author Steve Benford of the University of Nottingham, who led the research, "Under the surface, however, it explores the question of what it takes to trust a robot to look after our loved ones and potentially ourselves." While cats might love Roombas, not all animal encounters with robots are positive: Guide dogs for the visually impaired can get confused by delivery robots, for example, while the rise of lawn mowing robots can have a negative impact on hedgehogs, per Benford et al. Blast Theory and the scientists first held a series of exploratory workshops to ensure the installation and robotic design would take into account the welfare of the cats. "Creating a multispecies system—where cats, robots, and humans are all accounted for—takes more than just designing the robot," said co-author Eike Schneiders of Nottingham's Mixed Reality Lab about the primary takeaway from the project. "We had to ensure animal well-being at all times, while simultaneously ensuring that the interactive installation engaged the (human) audiences around the world. This involved consideration of many elements, including the design of the enclosure, the robot, and its underlying systems, the various roles of the humans-in-the-loop, and, of course, the selection of the cats.”Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

[Category: Science, animal behavior, animals, cat behavior, Cats, Robotics, science and art]

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[l] at 5/17/24 1:00pm
Enlarge Anyone can do a simple experiment. Navigate to a search engine that offers suggested completions for what you type, and start typing "scientists believe." When I did it, I got suggestions about the origin of whales, the evolution of animals, the root cause of narcolepsy, and more. The search results contained a long list of topics, like "How scientists believe the loss of Arctic sea ice will impact US weather patterns" or "Scientists believe Moon is 40 million years older than first thought." What do these all have in common? They're misleading, at least in terms of how most people understand the word "believe." In all these examples, scientists have become convinced via compelling evidence; these are more than just hunches or emotional compulsions. Given that difference, using "believe" isn't really an accurate description. Yet all these examples come from searching Google News, and so are likely to come from journalistic outlets that care about accuracy. Does the difference matter? A recent study suggests that it does. People who were shown headlines that used subjective verbs like "believe" tended to view the issue being described as a matter of opinion—even if that issue was solidly grounded in fact.Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

[Category: Science, beliefs, facts, Human behavior, Science communication]

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[l] at 5/17/24 5:00am
Enlarge / On Wednesday, SpaceX fully stacked the Super Heavy booster and Starship upper stage for the mega-rocket's next test flight from South Texas. (credit: SpaceX) Welcome to Edition 6.44 of the Rocket Report! Kathy Lueders, general manager of SpaceX's Starbase launch facility, says the company expects to receive an FAA launch license for the next Starship test flight shortly after Memorial Day. It looks like this rocket could fly in late May or early June, about two-and-a-half months after the previous Starship test flight. This is an improvement over the previous intervals of seven months and four months between Starship flights. As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don't want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar. Blue Origin launch on tap this weekend. Blue Origin plans to launch its first human spaceflight mission in nearly two years on Sunday. This flight will launch six passengers on a flight to suborbital space more than 60 miles (100 km) over West Texas. Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos's space company, has not flown people to space since a New Shepard rocket failure on an uncrewed research flight in September 2022. The company successfully launched New Shepard on another uncrewed suborbital mission in December.Read 18 remaining paragraphs | Comments

[Category: Science, Space, atlas v, blue origin, Commercial space, human spaceflight, launch, rocket report, spaceport Camden, spacex, starliner, starship, united launch alliance, vulcan]

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[l] at 5/16/24 4:02pm
Enlarge (credit: Sarah Dussault/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images) An autopsy report of a Massachusetts teen who tragically died hours after eating an ultra-spicy tortilla chip suggested that his death was due to the high dose of spice in the chip and a congenital heart defect, according to reporting by the Associated Press. Harris Wolobah, a previously healthy 14-year-old from Worcester, died September 1, 2023 hours after eating the chip—a 2023 Paqui One Chip Challenge chip—which were sold individually, wrapped in tin foil, and seasoned with two of hottest peppers in the world, the Naga Viper pepper and the Carolina Reaper pepper. Paqui sold the chip with a challenge in which eaters were dared to consume the chip, wait as long as possible before eating or drinking anything, and post the aftermath on social media, where the challenge went viral. Harris' mother, Lois Wolobah, immediately suspected the chip was involved in his untimely death. At the time, she reportedly said she picked him up from school after getting a call from the nurse. He was clutching his stomach and, about two hours later, lost consciousness and was rushed to the hospital, where he died. She reported that he had no known medical conditions at the time.Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

[Category: Health, Science, capsaicin, Carolina Reaper pepper, death, died, heart defect, Naga Viper Pepper, One Chip Challenge, Paqui, teen]

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[l] at 5/16/24 2:14pm
An artist's rendering of the BepiColombo mission, a joint ESA/JAXA project, which will take two spacecraft to the harsh environment of Mercury. (credit: ESA) This week the European Space Agency posted a slightly ominous note regarding its BepiColombo spacecraft, which consists of two orbiters bound for Mercury. The online news release cited a "glitch" with the spacecraft that is impairing its ability to generate thrust. The problem was first noted on April 26, when the spacecraft's primary propulsion system was scheduled to undertake an orbital maneuver. Not enough electrical power was delivered to the solar-electric propulsion system at the time. According to the space agency, a team involving its own engineers and those of its industrial partners began working on the issue. By May 7 they had made some progress, restoring the spacecraft's thrust to about 90 percent of its original level. But this is not full thrust, and the root cause of the problem is still poorly understood.Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

[Category: Science, Space]

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