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JAXA To Use Fishing Nets To Scoop Up Space Junk

gbrumfiel Lost in translation (210 comments)

This net thing is a great yarn, but I'm sorry to say it's just not true. As the good people at Science point out, the original press-release was about a space tether that could be used to collect debris. It's now gotten way out of hand. Of course a space "net" isn't going to work. The amount of space you'd have to cover is enormous, and in many cases there's no way to discrimnate between junk and LEO satellites. Also, the relative velocities of the different bits of debris mean that the net would be literally trying to catch bullets.

more than 3 years ago

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Stretch or Splat? Physicists debate death by black hole

gbrumfiel gbrumfiel writes  |  about 9 months ago

gbrumfiel (1917934) writes "For decades, researchers have thought they understood how black holes kill. Once you slip beyond the event horizon, the theory goes, gravity grows so strong that it spaghettifies you. But that version of events seems to violate Quantum Mechanics, which says that information must be conserved. NPR reports on the debate surrounding a new theory. The theory suggests that to conserve information, space itself must end at a black hole's edge. Anyone who falls "in" the black hole actually goes splat instead. Their information is carried away in quantum-entangled radiation from the edge of the hole. But is it really a hole if it doesn't have an inside? Discuss."
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Program to use Russian nukes for US electricity comes to an end

gbrumfiel gbrumfiel writes  |  about 9 months ago

gbrumfiel (1917934) writes "For the past two decades, about 10 percent of all the electricity consumed in the United States has come from Russian nuclear warheads. Under a program called Megatons to Megawatts, Russian highly-enriched uranium was pulled from old bombs and made into fuel for nuclear reactors. NPR News reports that today, the program concludes, when the last shipment arrives at a storage US storage facility. In all nearly 500 tons of uranium was recycled, enough for roughly 20,000 warheads."
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Congress reaches agreement... on helium

gbrumfiel gbrumfiel writes  |  about a year ago

gbrumfiel (1917934) writes "With just hours to go before a government shutdown, Congress has finally found something it can agree on. Unfortunately, that something isn't a budget: it's helium. the US holds vast helium reserves which it sells to scientists and private industry. According to NPR, a new law was needed to allow the helium to continue to flow. Congress passed it late last week, but only after a year-long lobbying effort and intense debate (and in the end, Senator Ted Cruz opposed the measure). Can a new bipartisanship rise out of this cooperation? Or will hot air prevail on Capitol Hill? *Insert your helium joke here*"
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Is the world's largest virus a genetic time capsule?

gbrumfiel gbrumfiel writes  |  about a year ago

gbrumfiel (1917934) writes "Researchers in France have discovered a the worlds largest virus and given it a terrifying name: Pandoravirus. NPR reports it doesn't pose a threat to people, but its genetic code could hint at an unusual origin. The team believes that the virus may carry the genes from a long-dead branch of the tree of life, one that possibly even started on Mars or somewhere else. Other scientists are skeptical, but everyone agrees that the new giant virus is pretty cool."
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Scientists question whether quantum computer really is quantum

gbrumfiel gbrumfiel writes  |  about a year ago

gbrumfiel (1917934) writes "Last week, Google and NASA announced a partnership to buy a new quantum computer from Canadian firm D-Wave Systems. But NPR news reports that many scientists are still questioning whether new machine really is quantum. Long-time critic and computer scientist Scott Aaronson has a long post detailing the current state of affairs. At issue is whether the 512 quantum bits at the processor's core are "entangled" together. Measuring that entanglement directly destroys it, so D-Wave has had a hard time convincing skeptics. As with all things quantum mechanical, the devil is in the details.

Still it may not matter: D-Wave's machine appears to be far faster at solving certain kinds of problems, regardless of how it works."

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Are some of north korea's long-range missiles fakes?

gbrumfiel gbrumfiel writes  |  about a year ago

gbrumfiel (1917934) writes "North Korea has not been shy in announcing plans to destroy the United States, but questions remain over whether it has the nukes or the missiles to do so. Now NPR reports on open-source intelligence showing that one of the North's most "advanced" weapons might actually be a decoy. Six KN-08 missiles were paraded last year, but each showed differences in the way they were assembled. Is it all a bluff? Or are the missiles part of a real program?"
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Mystery meteorite may not be from Mercury after all

gbrumfiel gbrumfiel writes  |  about a year and a half ago

gbrumfiel (1917934) writes "A strange green meteorite found in Morocco caused a stir in the press earlier this month, when scientists reported that it might be the first chunk of Mercury ever found here on earth. But scientists who've been puzzling over the stone since then say the accumulating evidence may point in a different direction. The 4.56-billion-year-old rock might have come from the asteroid belt located between Mars and Jupiter. If true, then it would provide clues about the origin of the solar system as a whole instead of the origin of the innermost planet."
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Sensors pick up North Korean radioactivity

gbrumfiel gbrumfiel writes  |  about a year and a half ago

gbrumfiel writes "A global network of sensors has picked up faint traces of radioactive gas that probably seeped from last week's underground nuclear test by North Korea. The detection of xenon-133 in Japan and Russia provide further evidence of the nuclear nature of the test, but offer no hint as to the type of weapon used. Atmospheric modelling by the Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics in Vienna shows that the gas likely seeped from North Korea's test site on 15 February, three days after the original test. That indicates that the test was well sealed deep underground."
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Russian meteor largest in a century

gbrumfiel gbrumfiel writes  |  about a year and a half ago

gbrumfiel writes "A meteor that exploded over Russia's Chelyabinsk region this morning was the largest recorded object to strike the earth in more than a century, Nature reports. Infrasound data collected by a network designed to watch for nuclear weapons testing suggests that today's blast released hundreds of kilotonnes of energy. That would make it far more powerful than the nuclear weapon tested by North Korea just days ago, and the largest rock to strike the earth since a meteor broke up over Siberia's Tunguska river in 1908. Despite its incredible power, the rock evaded detection by astronomers. Estimates show it was likely only 15 meters across—too small to be seen by networks searching for near earth asteroids."
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The mystery of the shrunken proton

gbrumfiel gbrumfiel writes  |  about a year and a half ago

gbrumfiel writes "The proton is behaving badly. When measured with electrons it is 0.87 femtometers in radius, but when measured with muons, the heavier cousin of the electron, it appears to be only 0.84 femtometers. 0.00000000000003 millimetres isn't much, but it's still bigger than the error bars on either measurement. The discrepancy first popped up in 2010, and at the time, most physicists thought that an error would explain it. But new results published in this week's issue of Science (paper, sub required) show the same discrepancy. Worse still, researchers have spent three years looking for a mistake in their equations and come up with zilch. Could it be that muons and electrons interact with protons in a fundamentally different way?"
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Fukushima's fallout of fear

gbrumfiel gbrumfiel writes  |  about a year and a half ago

gbrumfiel writes "Experts believe that the many thousands who fled from the Fukushima nuclear disaster received very low doses of radiation. But that doesn't mean there won't be health consequences. Nature magazine travelled to Fukushima prefecture and found evidence of an enormous mental strain from the accident. Levels of anxiety and PTSD-like symptoms are high among evacuees. Researchers fear that, in the long run, the mental problems could lead to depression and substance abuse among those who lost their homes. In other words, even if no one develops cancer as a direct result of radiation, the health effects could still be very real."
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Ask Slashdot: Should scientists build a new particle collider in Japan?

gbrumfiel gbrumfiel writes  |  about 2 years ago

gbrumfiel writes "The world's most powerful particle collider ended an epic proton run this morning, and researchers are already looking to the future. They want to build a 31-kilometer, multi-billion-dollar International Linear Collider (ILC) to study the recently-discovered Higgs boson in more detail and to look for new things as well. Japan has recently emerged as the front-runner to host the new collider. The Liberal Democratic Party, which won this weekend's elections, actually support the ILC in its party platform. But it's not yet clear whether real money will be forthcoming, or whether European and American physicists will back a Japanese bid. What do Slashdotters think? Does particle physics need a new collider? Should it go to Japan?"
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Has the mythical unicorn of materials science finally been found?

gbrumfiel gbrumfiel writes  |  about 2 years ago

gbrumfiel writes "For years, physicists have been on the hunt for a material so weird, it might as well be what unicorn horns are made of. Topological insulators are special types of material that conduct electricity, but only on their outermost surface. If they exist, and that's a real IF, then they would play host to all sorts of bizarre phenomenon: virtual particles that are their own anti-particles, strange quantum effects, dogs and cats living together, that sort of thing. Now three independent teams think they've finally found the stuff that the dreams of theoretical physicists are made of: samarium hexaboride."
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Laser fusion put on a slow burn by US government

gbrumfiel gbrumfiel writes  |  about 2 years ago

gbrumfiel writes "Those hoping to laser their way out of the energy crisis will have to wait a little longer. The US government has unveiled its new plan for laser fusion, and it's not going to happen anytime soon. It all comes down to problems at the National Ignition Facility (NIF), the world's most powerful laser at Lawrence Livermore Lab in California. For the past six years researchers at NIF have been trying to use the laser to spark a fusion reaction in a tiny pellet of hydrogen fuel. Like all fusion, it's tougher than it looks, and their campaign came up short. That left congress a little bit miffed, so they asked for a new plan. The new plan calls for a more methodical study of fusion, along with a broader approach to achieving it with the NIF. In three years or so, they should know whether the NIF will ever work."
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James Cameron spills the details from his deep dive

gbrumfiel gbrumfiel writes  |  about 2 years ago

gbrumfiel writes "James Cameron has released the first batch of scientific results from his historic dive in March to bottom of the Mariana trench and an earlier series of test dives in the New Britain Trench. The Mariana Trench dive was the deepest by a human since 1960. Some of the most interesting results came from trips to the seafloor made by robotic vehicles built by Cameron’s team. At the bottom of the trench, one of those robots found bizarre carpets of microbes coating rocks, that scientists say may have implications for the origins of life on Earth and other planets."
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Farmers worldwide felled by kidney disease

gbrumfiel gbrumfiel writes  |  about 2 years ago

gbrumfiel writes "Poor farmers from Nicaragua to Sri Lanka are being struck by a mysterious kidney disease. An investigation by PRI's the World and the Center for Public Integrity shows that thousands of farmers and farm workers are falling ill each month with the mysterious illness, known as Chronic Kidney Disease of unknown aetiology (CKDu). In Nicaragua and El Salvador, deaths from CKDu now surpass deaths from diabetes, HIV/AIDs, and leukemia combined. The cause may be pesticides, fertilizers, or both, but nobody is sure. Governments are staying quiet on the possible cause and the agricultural industry denies any responsibility."
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Astronomers fix the Astronomical Unit

gbrumfiel gbrumfiel writes  |  about 2 years ago

gbrumfiel writes "The Astronomical Unit (AU) is known to most as the distance between the Earth and the Sun. In fact, the official definition was a much more complex mathematical calculation involving angular measurements, hypothetical bodies, and the Sun's mass. That old definition created problems: due to general relativity, the length of the AU changed depending on an observer's position in the solar system. And the mass of the Sun changes over time, so the AU was changing as well. At the International Astronomical Union's latest meeting, astronomers unanimously voted on a new simplified definition: exactly 149,597,870,700 metres. Nobody need panic, the earth's distance from the sun remains just as it was, regardless of whether it's in AUs, meters, or smoots."
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Rover fuel came from Russian nuke factory

gbrumfiel gbrumfiel writes  |  more than 2 years ago

gbrumfiel (1917934) writes "The Curiosity rover will soon start rolling, and when it does, it will be running on gas from a Russian weapon's plant. Slate has the story of how the plutonium-238 that powers the rover came from Mayak, a Sovit-era bomb factory. Mayak made the fuel through reprocessing, a chemical process used to make nuclear warheads that also polluted the surrounding environment. After the cold war ended, the Russians sold the spare pu-238 to NASA, which put some of it into Curiosity. Now, the Russian supply is running low and Nasa hopes to restart pu-238 production on US soil (They're planning on making less of a mess this time)."
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After 60 years, a room-temperature maser

gbrumfiel gbrumfiel writes  |  more than 2 years ago

gbrumfiel writes "Before there were lasers, there were masers: systems that amplified microwaves instead of light. Solid state masers are used in a variety of applications, including deep space communication, but they've never been as popular as lasers, in part because they have to be cooled to near absolute zero in order to work. Now a team of British physicists have built a room-temperature maser using some spare chemicals and a laser they bought off of E-Bay. The new device is 100 million times as powerful as existing masers and might revolutionize telecommunications."
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Internet billionaire creates HUGE physics prize

gbrumfiel gbrumfiel writes  |  more than 2 years ago

gbrumfiel (1917934) writes "Billionaire Internet entrepreneur Yuri Milner has spontaneously awarded $3 million prizes to nine prominent theoretical physicists. The new, Fundamental Physics Prize dwarfs awards like the Nobel, which this year is estimated to be worth some $1.2 million (and that's before it's split by up to three winners). It's so much money that some theorists fear it could distort the field. Milner says that his only purpose of the new prize was to promote the field, which he studied in the 1980s: "The intention was to say that science is as important as a shares rating on Wall Street," he told Nature ."
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