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Comments

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When did you learn how to code?

astroengine Late bloomer... (3 comments)

I was 23 when I was confronted with an unforeseen component of my PhD that required me to adapt an old FORTRAN 77 (!) program. The learning curve was steep, and from that moment on I truly appreciated the need for coding to be taught at an early age. Up until that point my university (UK) only offered optional classes on programming. It should be an essential part of education well before university level. It's like any language; the earlier you learn it, the more fluent you become.

about 2 years ago
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I go through keyboards ...

astroengine Letter erosion (341 comments)

When "A" wears away, it's time for a new keyboard, typically.

more than 2 years ago
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Superflares Found on Sun-like Stars

astroengine Correct version (1 comments)

A previous submission on the same topic was posted accidentally with the incorrect URL. This is the correct version. Apologies!

more than 2 years ago
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Near-Earth Asteroid Discovered Via Crowdsourcing

astroengine Re:Automate (21 comments)

It is automated, but only to a point. FTA: "...the telescope scans the sky automatically, looking for any errant chunks of space rock. When an asteroid candidate is identified, the data must be reviewed by a human before the discovery is made."

more than 3 years ago
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Poll: Would you take a one way ticket to Mars?

astroengine Choice 1, but only if.... (1 comments)

...I know there are Martian microbes. Nothing like ending your life as fertilizer.

more than 4 years ago
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NYT claims Slashdot losing relevance in social web

astroengine Re:Losing referred traffic... (3 comments)

Very true -- my stats will attest to that. A massive Digg spike = thousands of visitors who can't be bothered to read the title. A modest surge in Slashdot traffic = a steady flow of visitors over a longer period who read the title, first sentence (shocker!), first paragraph, and (dare I say it?) the whole article, taking several minutes to do so.

more than 4 years ago
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NYT claims Slashdot losing relevance in social web

astroengine Not on my watch (3 comments)

As a publisher myself, this article pretty much contradicts my experience with Slashdot. True, traffic can be variable, but there's a thriving community here that understands what sci-tech news actually IS. Also, if an article goes popular on /., I find many of the mainstream sites pick the story up from here. If I want to read endless articles about Facebook's latest privacy conundrum or get my daily dose of lolcats, then I'd pop over to Digg. Slashdot isn't the same model as the "other" social media sites, and it may not be relevant to many, it is certainly relevant to a huge number of sci-tech-savvy contributors.

more than 4 years ago
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Pizza Lovers Suffer Data Breach From Hell

astroengine It's a concern... (164 comments)

I'd hate it if half of New Zealand knew how much pizza I eat.

more than 4 years ago
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Wikimedia Foundation receives $2m Google grant

astroengine But is it sustainable? (3 comments)

Sure, it's awesome Wikipedia is getting sizable grants, donations and gifts, but how long can the foundation be sustained in this way? Wikipedia, despite its flaws, has become a permanent feature of the web, but it seems there is always a campaign to raise more funds... perhaps Google ads will be the future.

more than 4 years ago
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Pluto — a Complex and Changing World

astroengine Because... (191 comments)

...planets have surfaces. Pluto has a surface, therefore it's a planet.

more than 4 years ago
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AAAS reaffirms position on climate change

astroengine But the deniers will keep rumbling (1 comments)

It's great to finally see the big organizations taking on "Climategate", but unfortunately, this whole scenario will continue to be harked by global warming deniers because, quite franky, screaming "conspiracy" is all they've got.

about 5 years ago
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Beamed Space Solar Power Plant To Open In 2016?

astroengine Wouldn't it be cheaper if... (512 comments)

...a company sold roof tiles with embedded solar panels, market them as 'green', get government tax breaks for anyone participating in the scheme, feed the power collected into the national grid... and *tada* we can collect more energy than a space solar satellite. It's safer, more practical, cheaper and certainly less stupid than thinking space solar is going to become a reality by 2016...

more than 5 years ago
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'Stoned wallabies make crop circles'

astroengine Wallaby hoaxers (1 comments)

The same way most crop circles are made, then.

more than 5 years ago

Submissions

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Kepler Makes First Exoplanet Discovery After Mission Reboot

astroengine astroengine writes  |  yesterday

astroengine (1577233) writes "NASA’s Kepler space telescope has detected its first new extrasolar planet after mission engineers were able to save the mission from a premature death after two of the exoplanet hunter’s four stabilizing reaction wheels failed last year. Called “K2, the extended mission arose from an “innovative idea” that appears to have given the prolific telescope a new lease on life. “Last summer, the possibility of a scientifically productive mission for Kepler after its reaction wheel failure in its extended mission was not part of the conversation,” said Paul Hertz, NASA’s astrophysics division director at the agency’s headquarters in Washington D.C. “Today, thanks to an innovative idea and lots of hard work by the NASA and Ball Aerospace team, Kepler may well deliver the first candidates for follow-up study by the James Webb Space Telescope to characterize the atmospheres of distant worlds and search for signatures of life.”"
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Wait, There's More: Curiosity Confirms Organics on Mars

astroengine astroengine writes  |  3 days ago

astroengine (1577233) writes "NASA’s rover Curiosity has found organic compounds on Mars, the first definitive proof of materials, which on Earth are building blocks for life, also exist on the Red Planet. “We have had a major discovery. We have found organics on Mars,” Curiosity lead scientist John Grotzinger, with the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., said during a webcast press conference at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco. Whether the organics were delivered by carbon-rich meteorites or formed on Mars has yet to be determined. The discovery, paired with a sister investigation that found occasional spikes of methane gas in the Martian atmosphere, is a turning point for the mission, which began 2.5 years ago inside a 96-mile wide impact basin named Gale Crater. On Earth, more than 90 percent of the atmospheric methane is produced by biological processes. The rest is tied to geochemical processes."
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Curiosity Detects Mysterious Methane Spikes on Mars

astroengine astroengine writes  |  3 days ago

astroengine (1577233) writes "A gas strongly associated with life on Earth has been detected again in the Martian atmosphere, opening a new chapter in a decade-old mystery about the on-again, off-again appearance of methane on Mars. The latest discovery comes from NASA’s Curiosity rover, which in addition to analyzing rocks and soil samples, is sniffing the air at its Gale Crater landing site. A year ago, scientists reported that Curiosity had come up empty-handed after an eight-month search for methane in the atmosphere, leaving earlier detections by ground-based telescopes and Mars-orbiting spacecraft an unexplained anomaly. “We thought we had closed the book on methane. It was disappointing to a lot of people that there wasn’t significant methane on Mars, but that’s where we were,” Curiosity scientist Christopher Webster with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., told Discovery News."
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Curiosity's Mars Crater was Once a Vast Lake

astroengine astroengine writes  |  about two weeks ago

astroengine (1577233) writes "The mountain that NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity is exploring appears to have once been a lake, scientists said Monday. Mount Sharp, a three-mile-high mound of layered debris rising from the floor of Gale Crater, is believed to have formed billions of years ago, images posted on NASA’s website ahead of conference call with reporters shows. Sediments to create the mountain likely originated from the crater rim highlands and transported toward the center of the crater in alluvial fans, deltas, and wind-blown drifts, scientists said. “During wet periods, water pooled in lakes where sediments settled out in the center of crater,” NASA said. "Even during dry periods in the crater center, groundwater would have existed beneath the surface. Then, during the next wet period it would resurface to form the next lake. This alternation of lakes, rivers and deserts could have represented a long-lasting habitable environment.""
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LHC's 'Heart' Starts Pumping Protons Before Restart

astroengine astroengine writes  |  about three weeks ago

astroengine (1577233) writes "While on its long road to restart, yet another milestone was reached at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) over the weekend. Protons were generated by the LHC’s source and blasted through a ‘daisy-chain’ of smaller accelerators before being intentionally smashed into a metaphorical brick wall. The particle beam didn’t reach the LHC’s famous 17 mile (27 kilometer) accelerator ring, they were stopped just short, but the event was used to begin calibration efforts of the massive experiment’s detectors before the whole system is powered back up again early next year. “These initial tests are a milestone for the whole accelerator chain,” said the LHC’s chief engineer Reyes Alemany Fernandez. “Not only was this the first time the injection lines have seen beams in over a year, it was also our first opportunity to test the LHC’s operation system. We successfully commissioned the LHC’s injection and ejection magnets, all without beam in the machine itself.”"
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Philae's Batteries Have Drained, Comet Lander Sleeps

astroengine astroengine writes  |  about a month ago

astroengine (1577233) writes "In the final hours, Philae’s science team hurried to squeeze as much science out of the small lander as possible. But the deep sleep was inevitable, Rosetta’s lander has slipped into hibernation after running its batteries dry. This may be the end of Philae’s short and trailblazing mission on the surface of Comet 67P, but a huge amount of data — including data from a drilling operation that, apparently, was carried out despite concerns that Philae wasn’t positioned correctly — was streamed to Rosetta mission control. “Prior to falling silent, the lander was able to transmit all science data gathered during the First Science Sequence,” said Stephan Ulamec, Philae Lander Manager. “This machine performed magnificently under tough conditions, and we can be fully proud of the incredible scientific success Philae has delivered.”"
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Comet Sings a Mysterious Song to Rosetta

astroengine astroengine writes  |  about a month ago

astroengine (1577233) writes "As if to celebrate tomorrow’s landing of Philae on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the European Rosetta mission has detected a mysterious signal coming from the 2.5 mile-wide lump of ice and rock. The mission has five instruments in the Rosetta Plasma Consortium (RPC) that measure the plasma environment surrounding the comet. Plasma is a charged gas and the RPC is tasked with understanding variations in the comet’s activity, how 67P’s jets of vapor and dust interacts with the solar wind and the dynamic structure of the comet’s nucleus and coma. But when recording signals in the 40-50 millihertz frequency range, the RPC stumbled on a surprise — the comet was singing."
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'Revolutionary' New View of Baby Planets Forming Around a Star

astroengine astroengine writes  |  about a month and a half ago

astroengine (1577233) writes "Welcome to HL Tauri — a star system that is just being born and the target of one of the most mind-blowing astronomical observations ever made. Observed by the powerful Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, this is the most detailed view of the proto-planetary disk surrounding a young star 450 light-years away. And those concentric rings cutting through the glowing gas and dust? Those, my friends, are tracks etched out by planets being spawned inside the disk. In short, this is the mother of all embryonic star system ultrasounds. But this dazzling new observation is so much more — it’s a portal into our solar system’s past, showing us what our system of planets around a young sun may have looked like over 4 billion years ago. And this is awesome, because it proves that our theoretical understanding about the evolution of planetary systems is correct. However, there are some surprises. “When we first saw this image we were astounded at the spectacular level of detail,” said Catherine Vlahakis, ALMA Deputy Program Scientist. “HL Tauri is no more than a million years old, yet already its disc appears to be full of forming planets. This one image alone will revolutionize theories of planet formation.”"
Link to Original Source
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SpaceShipTwo's Rocket Engine Did Not Cause Fatal Crash

astroengine astroengine writes  |  about a month and a half ago

astroengine (1577233) writes "It wasn’t SpaceShipTwo’s hybrid rocket motor — which was flying on Friday with a new type of fuel — that caused the fatal crash, the head of the accident investigation agency said late Sunday. The ship’s fuel tanks and its engine were recovered intact, indicating there was no explosion. “They showed no signs of burn-through, no signs of being breached,” Christopher Hart, acting chairman of the National Transportation and Safety Board, told reporters at the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, Calif. Instead, data and video relayed from the ship show its hallmark safety feature — a foldable tail section designed for easy re-entry into the atmosphere from space — was deployed early, causing the in-flight break-up."
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SpaceShipTwo Pilot Named; Branson Vows to 'Move Forward Together'

astroengine astroengine writes  |  about a month and a half ago

astroengine (1577233) writes "Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson has arrived in the Mojave Desert, Calif., in the wake of the tragic explosion and crash of the company’s SpaceShipTwo vehicle. The rocket-propelled space plane was completely destroyed Friday morning during a test flight. One of the two test pilots, employed by SpaceShipTwo development company Scaled Composites, was killed and the second pilot was rushed to a local hospital where he is described as having “major injuries.” A spokeswoman for Kern’s County Coroner’s Office told the Los Angeles Times that project engineer and test pilot Michael Alsbury died in the accident. Alsbury was 39-years-old and had been working with Scaled for 14 years. The second pilot, who was able to parachute to safety, has not been named."
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Two Exocomet Families Found Around Baby Star System

astroengine astroengine writes  |  about 2 months ago

astroengine (1577233) writes "Scientists have found two families of comets in the developing Beta Pictoris star system, located about 64 million light-years from Earth, including one group that appears to be remnants of a smashed-up protoplanet. The discovery bolsters our theoretical understanding of the violent processes that led to the formation of Earth and the other terrestrial planets in the solar system. “If you look back at the solar system when it was only 22 million years old, you might have seen phenomena that’s a like more like what’s happening in Beta Pic,” astrophysicist Aki Roberge, with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., told Discovery News."
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Mars Orbiter Beams Back Images of Comet's Surprisingly Tiny Nucleus

astroengine astroengine writes  |  about 2 months ago

astroengine (1577233) writes "The High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on board NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has become the first instrument orbiting Mars to beam back images of comet Siding Spring’s nucleus and coma. And by default, it has also become the first ever mission to photograph a long-period comet’s pristine nucleus on its first foray into the inner solar system. Interestingly, through analysis of these first HiRISE observations, astronomers have determined that the icy nucleus at the comet’s core is much smaller than originally thought. “Telescopic observers had modeled the size of the nucleus as about half a mile, or one kilometer, wide,” writes a NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory news release. “However, the best HiRISE images show only two to three pixels across the brightest feature, probably the nucleus, suggesting a size less than half that estimate.”"
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Saturn's 'Death Star' Moon May Hide Subsurface Ocean

astroengine astroengine writes  |  about 2 months ago

astroengine (1577233) writes "With its heavily cratered, geologically dead surface, Saturn's moon Mimas was considered to be scientifically boring. But appearances can be deceiving. Using data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, new research shows something strange inside Mimas that is causing the moon to sway as it orbits around the ringed gas giant. Computer models point to two possibilities. First is that Mimas, which is about 250 miles in diameter, has an oblong or football-shaped core, a clue that the moon may have formed inside Saturn’s ice rings. The second option is that Mimas has a global ocean located 16 miles to 19 miles beneath its icy crust."
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Mars' Atmosphere is Leeching Out Into Space

astroengine astroengine writes  |  about 2 months ago

astroengine (1577233) writes "Early results from NASA’s recently arrived MAVEN Mars spacecraft show an extensive, tenuous cloud of hydrogen surrounding the red planet, the result of water breaking down in the atmosphere, scientists said Tuesday. MAVEN, an acronym for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, arrived on Sept. 21 to help answer questions about what caused a planet that was once warm and wet to turn into the cold, dry desert that appears today. “It’s measurements like these that will allow us to estimate the escape rate of hydrogen from the Martian atmosphere to space today. It’s an important measurement to make because the hydrogen ... comes from water lower down in the atmosphere,” MAVEN scientist Mike Chaffin, with the University of Colorado, Boulder, told reporters on a conference call."
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Rosetta Stalks Dark Comet in Stunning New Space Selfie

astroengine astroengine writes  |  about 2 months ago

astroengine (1577233) writes "At a distance of only 10 miles from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko’s surface, the European Rosetta mission has captured yet another dazzling self portrait with the dark comet lurking in the background. But the orbiter couldn’t have snapped this “selfie” without the help of a little friend — the attached Philae lander that is currently undergoing preparations for its historic comet surface landing in November."
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NASA Eyes Crew Deep Sleep Option for Mars Mission

astroengine astroengine writes  |  about 3 months ago

astroengine (1577233) writes "A NASA-backed study explores an innovative way to dramatically cut the cost of a human expedition to Mars — put the crew in stasis. The deep sleep, called torpor, would reduce astronauts’ metabolic functions with existing medical procedures. Torpor also can occur naturally in cases of hypothermia. “Therapeutic torpor has been around in theory since the 1980s and really since 2003 has been a staple for critical care trauma patients in hospitals," aerospace engineer Mark Schaffer, with SpaceWorks Enterprises in Atlanta, said at the International Astronomical Congress in Toronto this week. "Protocols exist in most major medical centers for inducing therapeutic hypothermia on patients to essentially keep them alive until they can get the kind of treatment that they need.” Coupled with intravenous feeding, a crew could be put in hibernation for the transit time to Mars, which under the best-case scenario would take 180 days one-way."
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The 'Man in the Moon' was Created by Mega Volcano

astroengine astroengine writes  |  about 3 months ago

astroengine (1577233) writes "Whenever you look up at the near side of the moon, you see a face looking back at you. This is the “Man in the Moon” and it has inspired many questions about how it could have formed. There has been some debate as to how this vast feature — called Oceanus Procellarum, which measures around 1,800 miles wide — was created. But after using gravity data from NASA’s twin GRAIL spacecraft, researchers have found compelling evidence that it was formed in the wake of a mega volcanic eruption and not the location of a massive asteroid strike."
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Solar System's Water is Older Than the Sun

astroengine astroengine writes  |  about 3 months ago

astroengine (1577233) writes "Next time you’re swimming in the ocean, consider this: part of the water is older than the sun. So concludes a team of scientists who ran computer models comparing the ratios of hydrogen isotopes over time. Taking into account new insights that the solar nebula had less ionizing radiation than previously thought, the models show that at least some of the water found in the ocean, as well as in comets, meteorites and on the moon, predate the sun’s birth."
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Curiosity Finds a Weird 'Ball' on Mars

astroengine astroengine writes  |  about 3 months ago

astroengine (1577233) writes "This recent photographic example of the Martian surface by NASA rover Curiosity's Mastcam camera was uploaded to the mission’s photo archive on sol 746 (Sept. 11). While compiling a mosaic of images of the surrounding landscape, the rover captured a rather un-Mars-like shape atop a rocky outcrop. There’s a perfect-looking sphere sitting proudly on a flat rock surface. It’s dusty, but under that dust it appears a little darker than the surrounding rock. At first glance it looks like an old cannonball or possibly a dirty golf ball. But knowing that Mars is somewhat lacking in the 16th Century battleship and golf cart departments, there was likely another answer. According to MSL scientists based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., the ball isn’t as big as it looks — it’s approximately one centimeter wide. Their explanation is that it is most likely something known as a “concretion.” Other examples of concretions have been found on the Martian surface before — take, for example, the tiny haematite concretions, or “blueberries”, observed by Mars rover Opportunity in 2004 — and they were created during sedimentary rock formation when Mars was abundant in liquid water many millions of years ago."
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