Ancient Babylonians Figured Out Forerunner of Calculus ( 153

sciencehabit writes: Tracking and recording the motion of the sun, the moon, and the planets as they paraded across the desert sky, ancient Babylonian astronomers used simple arithmetic to predict the positions of celestial bodies. Now, new evidence reveals that these astronomers, working several centuries B.C.E., also employed sophisticated geometric methods that foreshadow the development of calculus. Historians had thought such techniques did not emerge until more than 1400 years later, in 14th century Europe.

Discrepancy Detected In GPS Time 187

jones_supa writes that on Tuesday, 26th January, Aalto University's Metsähovi observatory located in Kirkkonummi, Finland, detected a rare anomaly in time reported by the GPS system (Google translation). The automatic monitoring system of a hydrogen maser atomic clock triggered an alarm which reported a deviation of 13.7 microseconds. While this is tiny, it is a sign of a problem somewhere, and does not exclude the possibility of larger timekeeping problems happening. The specific source of the problem is not known, but candidates are a faulty GPS satellite or an atomic clock placed in one. Particle flare-up from sun is unlikely, as the observatory has currently not detected unusually high activity from sun.

Caltech Astronomers Say a Ninth Planet Lurks Beyond Pluto ( 258

sciencehabit writes: The solar system may have a new ninth planet. Today, two scientists announced evidence that a body nearly the size of Neptune — but as yet unseen — orbits the sun every 15,000 years. During the solar system's infancy 4.5 billion years ago, they say, the giant planet was knocked out of the planet-forming region near the sun. Slowed down by gas, the planet settled into a distant elliptical orbit, where it still lurks today. Here's a link to the full academic paper published in The Astronomical Journal.

Distant Supernova Is the Most Powerful Ever Detected ( 75

schwit1 writes: Newly published research into a supernova under observation since June has found it to be the most powerful known to modern science. "This one, called ASASSN-15lh, is about 3.8 billion light years away, 200 times more powerful than most supernovas, and twice as bright as the previous record holder. It shines 20 times brighter than the combined output of the Milky Way's 100 billion stars, and in the last six months, it has spewed as much energy as the sun would in 10 lifetimes, says Krzysztof Stanek of the Ohio State University, co-principal investigator of the All Sky Automated Survey for SuperNovae (ASAS-SN) network that spotted the explosion." The explosion doesn't fit well with current theories of supernova energy release, so astronomers are working to figure out its unusual mechanics.

NASA Forms New Planetary Defense Office To Manage Asteroid Threats ( 63

An anonymous reader writes: NASA has set up a new Planetary Defense Coordination Office to detect and track near-Earth objects. CNN reports: "The department, which includes the position of Planetary Defense Officer, is managed by the Planetary Science Division of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington DC. And its mission includes the early detection of potentially hazardous objects (PHOs) — asteroids and comets which get within 0.05 Astronomical Units of Earth's orbit around the sun (7.5 million kilometers) and are large enough, greater than around 30 — 50 meters (98 — 164 feet), to reach the Earth's surface." Bruce Willis had no comment on his level of involvement in the new agency.

Auroral Show To Dazzle Just Before the New Year; Best View From the ISS ( 28

An anonymous reader writes: When the Sun emits a flare or a mass ejection in the direction of Earth, these fast moving particles are when Earth's magnetosphere and atmosphere are of the utmost importance for shielding us. The magnetic field bends these ions harmlessly away from our planet, only funneling a small fraction down into a ring surrounding the poles. The atmosphere absorbs the impact, shielding all living creatures below from this radiation, while simultaneously putting on a show. Thanks to a coronal mass ejection on the 28th, the northern and southern lights will put on quite a display on the night of the 30th for all skywatchers at or above 50 degrees latitude, with chances that observers further towards the equator might have something to see, too. But the best views of all will belong to the unshielded astronauts aboard the ISS, who will pass around the Earth a full 7 times during our "night," and at the peak of the storm.

North Carolina Town That Defeated Solar Plan Talks Back ( 336

mdsolar writes with news that city officials in Woodland, North Carolina have taken issue with being ridiculed by the internet and want to set the record straight. According to the article: "Usually what happens in Woodland stays in Woodland, a town 115 miles east of Raleigh with one Dollar General store and one restaurant. But news of the Northampton County hamlet's moratorium on solar farms blew up on social media over the weekend after a local paper quoted a resident complaining to the Town Council that solar farms would take away sunshine from nearby vegetation. Another resident warned that solar panels would suck up energy from the sun. As outlandish as those claims seem, town officials say the Internet got it wrong."

North Carolina Town Defeats Big Solar's Plan To Suck Up the Sun ( 760

mdsolar writes with this excerpt from Ars Technica: The citizens of Woodland, N.C. have spoken loud and clear: They don't want none of them highfalutin solar panels in their good town. They scare off the kids. "All the young people are going to move out," warned Bobby Mann, a local resident concerned about the future of his burg. Worse, Mann said, the solar panels would suck up all the energy from the Sun. Another resident -- a retired science teacher, no less -- expressed concern that a proposed solar farm would block photosynthesis, and prevent nearby plants from growing. Jane Mann then went on to add that there seemed to have been a lot of cancer deaths in the area, and that no one could tell her solar panels didn't cause cancer. "I want information," Mann said. "Enough is enough."

Japanese Space Probe Akatsuki Enters Orbit Around Venus Five Years Late ( 51

MarkWhittington writes: On May 17, 2010, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency Venus Climate Orbiter probe or as it is now called Akatsuki lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center. It was supposed to enter orbit around Venus on December 6, 2010. However, due to a failure in the probe's orbital maneuvering thruster, Akatsuki did not enter Venus orbit and went into orbit around the sun instead. According to a story on, just about five years to the day of the failure, Akatsuki assumed an orbit around the second planet from the sun. Japanese scientists will determine what sort of orbit that is in a couple of days and, hopefully, begin the probe's science mission.

City Sued Over Smart Meter-Related Patent ( 60

New submitter wb8nbs writes: Florida patent troll Atlas LLC has filed a suit against the municipality of Naperville, Illinois (paywalled). Atlas claims infringement of their patent on wireless communication where a hub node controls remote node responses. In 2011-2013 Naperville, which owns the local electrical utility network, installed Smart Meters on nearly all customers in its serving area, a move that was bitterly opposed by a small group of residents. The Naperville Smart Meter network uses Zigbee protocol to return readings to their fiber optic collection network. The Atlas suit could have long range implications to the Internet of Things, but it appears they have sued and lost a similar case in Florida.

New Type of 'Flow Battery' Can Store 10 Times the Energy of the Next Best Device ( 75

sciencehabit writes: Industrial-scale batteries, known as flow batteries, could one day usher in widespread use of renewable energy—but only if the devices can store large amounts of energy cheaply and feed it to the grid when the sun isn't shining and the winds are calm. That's something conventional flow batteries can't do. Now, researchers report that they've created a novel type of flow battery that uses lithium ion technology—the sort used to power laptops—to store about 10 times as much energy as the most common flow batteries on the market. With a few improvements, the new batteries could make a major impact on the way we store and deliver energy. The research, from the National University of Singapore, has one big flaw in particular: speed. It's 'very innovative' work, says Michael Aziz, a flow battery expert at Harvard University. But he adds that even though the novel battery has a high energy density, the rate at which it delivers that power is 10,000 times slower than conventional flow batteries, far too slow for most applications. Wang and his colleagues acknowledge the limitation, but they say they should be able to improve the delivery rate with further improvements to the membrane and the charge-ferrying redox mediators.

Video Meet Mårten Mickos, Serial Open Source CEO (Video) 23

Marten was the MySQL CEO who built the company from a small-time free software database developer into a worldwide software juggernaut he sold to Sun Microsystems. Next, he became CEO of Eucalyptus Systems, another open source operation, which Hewlett Packard bought in 2014. Now Mårten is CEO of hackerone, a company that hooks security-worried companies up with any one of thousands of ethical hackers worldwide.

Some of those hackers might be companies that grew out of university CS departments, and some of them may be individual high school students working from their kitchen tables. Would a large company Board of Directors trust a kid hacker who came to them with a bug he found in their software? Probably not. But if Mårten or one of his hackerone people contacts that company, it's likely to listen -- and set up a bug bounty program if they don't have one already.

Essentially, once again Mårten is working as an intermediary between technically proficient people -- who may or may not conform to sociey's idea of a successful person -- and corporate executives who need hackers' skills and services but may not know how to find non-mainstream individuals or even know the difference between "hackers" and "crackers." Editor's note: I have known and respected Mårten for many years. If this interview seems like a conversation between two old friends, it is.

Comet Catalina To Pass By Earth For the Final Time 54

StartsWithABang writes: Originating from the Kuiper belt and the Oort cloud, comets are generally thought of as periodic objects, with their initial trajectories having been perturbed by either Neptune, another distant object or a passing star or rogue planet. But most comets aren't periodic; they're transient instead, where a trip into the inner Solar System gives them additional gravitational perturbations, causing them to either fly into the Sun or gain enough kinetic energy to escape entirely. This latter fate is the case for Comet Catalina, which reaches perihelion on November 15th and then heads out of the Solar System after putting on one final show for observers on Earth.

Getting Small: Modular Data Center Designs Play Large Role In Edge Growth ( 5

1sockchuck writes: After years of focus on hyperscale server farms, there's new demand for data centers to serve edge content and the service provider market in smaller cities. How do you match the size of the data center to the demand profile of smaller markets? Pre-fabricated data center designs are playing a key role, deploying server space in smaller, digestible chunks. This avoids the overbuilding that led to the data center glut during the dot-com boom, but also allows customers to expand gradually. But the "data center in a box" has evolved since the Sun Blackbox, and now includes a focus on factory-built power rooms and lean construction of data halls, as well as the evolving designs for containerized solutions.
The Military

Military Blimp Breaks Free and Drifts Over the Mid-Atlantic Trailing Tether ( 196

McGruber writes: The Baltimore Sun reports that a military surveillance blimp has broken free of its mooring at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland and was last seen drifting at 16,000 ft over Pennsylvania. The 243-foot-long, helium-filled JLENS (Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System) aerostat detached from its mooring at about 11:54 a.m. Wednesday. It was trailing approximately 6,700 feet of cable. "Anyone who sees the aerostat is advised to contact 911 immediately," spokeswoman Heather Roelker said. "People are warned to keep a safe distance from the airship and tether as contact with them may present significant danger."

Morocco's Solar Power Mega-Project ( 102

An anonymous reader writes: Morocco, located along the northwestern African coast, is in prime position to take advantage of solar technology, and they've committed to one of the biggest such projects in the world. The city of Ouarzazate will host "a complex of four linked solar mega-plants that, alongside hydro and wind, will help provide nearly half of Morocco's electricity from renewables by 2020." It will be the largest concentrated solar power plant in the world. "The mirror technology it uses is less widespread and more expensive than the photovoltaic panels that are now familiar on roofs the world over, but it will have the advantage of being able to continue producing power even after the sun goes down." The first phase of the project, called Noor 1, comprises 500,000 solar mirrors that track the sun throughout the day, with a maximum capacity of 160MW. When the full project finishes, it will be able to generate up to 580MW. "Each parabolic mirror is 12 meters high and focused on a steel pipeline carrying a 'heat transfer solution' (HTF) that is warmed to 393C as it snakes along the trough before coiling into a heat engine. There, it is mixed with water to create steam that turns energy-generating turbines."

Comet Lovejoy Giving Away Alcohol ( 97 writes: Comet Lovejoy lived up to its name by releasing large amounts of alcohol as well as a type of sugar into space, according to new observations by an international team. The discovery marks the first time ethyl alcohol, the same type in alcoholic beverages, has been observed in a comet. The finding adds to the evidence that comets could have been a source of the complex organic molecules necessary for the emergence of life.

'We found that comet Lovejoy was releasing as much alcohol as in at least 500 bottles of wine every second during its peak activity,' said Nicolas Biver of the Paris Observatory, France, lead author of a paper on the discovery published Oct. 23 in Science Advances. The team found 21 different organic molecules in gas from the comet, including ethyl alcohol and glycolaldehyde, a simple sugar.

Comets are frozen remnants from the formation of our solar system. Scientists are interested in them because they are relatively pristine and therefore hold clues to how the solar system was made. Most orbit in frigid zones far from the sun. However, occasionally, a gravitational disturbance sends a comet closer to the sun, where it heats up and releases gases, allowing scientists to determine its composition.


A Tower of Molten Salt Will Deliver Solar Power After Sunset ( 139

schwit1 sends this report from IEEE Spectrum: Solar power projects intended to turn solar heat into steam to generate electricity have struggled to compete amid tumbling prices for solar energy from solid-state photovoltaic (PV) panels. But the first commercial-scale implementation of an innovative solar thermal design could turn the tide. Engineered from the ground up to store some of its solar energy, the 110-megawatt plant is nearing completion in the Crescent Dunes near Tonopah, Nev. It aims to simultaneously produce the cheapest solar thermal power and to dispatch that power for up to 10 hours after the setting sun has idled photovoltaics. ... [The system] heats a molten mixture of nitrate salts that can be stored in insulated tanks and withdrawn on demand to run the plant’s steam generators and turbine when electricity is most valuable. ... Eliminating the heat exchange between oil and salts trims energy storage losses from about 7 percent to just 2 percent. The tower also heats its molten salt to 566 degrees C, whereas oil-based plants top out at 400 degrees C.

Europe and Russia Are Headed Back To the Moon Together ( 65

MarkWhittington writes: Russia is turning its attention to the moon again for the first time in about 40 years. The first Russian mission to the moon since long before the end of the Cold War will be Luna 27, a robot lander that will touch down on the edge of the lunar South Pole as early as 2020. Russia is looking for international partners to help make Luna 27 a reality and may have found one in the European Space Agency, according to a story on the BBC. "The initial missions will be robotic. Luna 27 will land on the edge of the South Pole Aitken basin. The south polar region has areas which are always dark. These are some of the coldest places in the Solar System. As such, they are icy prisons for water and other chemicals that have been shielded from heating by the Sun. According to Dr. James Carpenter, ESA's lead scientist on the project, one of the main aims is to investigate the potential use of this water as a resource for the future, and to find out what it can tell us about the origins of life in the inner Solar System."

Neutrino 'Flip' Discovery Earns Nobel For Japanese, Canadian Researchers 58

Dave Knott writes with news that the 2015 Nobel Prize in physics has been awarded to Takaaki Kajita (of the University of Tokyo in Japan) and Arthur McDonald (of Queens University in Canada), for discovering how neutrinos switch between different "flavours." As the linked BBC article explains: In 1998, Prof Kajita's team reported that neutrinos they had caught, bouncing out of collisions in the Earth's atmosphere, had switched identity: they were a different "flavour" from what those collisions must have released. Then in 2001, the group led by Prof McDonald announced that the neutrinos they were detecting in Ontario, which started out in the Sun, had also "flipped" from their expected identity. This discovery of the particle's wobbly identity had crucial implications. It explained why neutrino detections had not matched the predicted quantities — and it meant that the baffling particles must have a mass. This contradicted the Standard Model of particle physics and changed calculations about the nature of the Universe, including its eternal expansion.

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