Science & Technology


Nuclearageddon: The use of U.S.-made fuel in Ukrainian reactors may lead to 15 Chernobyl disasters at a time

Nuclear power stations
© RIA Novosti/Фалин
Kiev is reducing cooperation with Russia in the field of nuclear power production and is going to sign a contract with the Westinghouse Electric Corporation of the United States for nuclear fuel supplies. Flaws have been repeatedly detected in Westinghouse-made fuel assemblies. Experts believe that the use of such assemblies will make Ukrainian nuclear reactors less reliable and may pose a threat to Ukraine's nuclear safety. Ukraine's new authorities have clearly decided to ratchet down Kiev's dependence on Russian nuclear fuel supplies and sign a contract to that end with the Westinghouse Corporation. But the move may result in a manmade disaster in Ukraine, since the nuclear power plants in Ukraine have been built from Soviet design an can safely operate only on the fuel made in the Russian city Elektrostal, says Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee for Natural Resources, Maxim Shingarkin, and elaborates.

"Every single reactor is normally built on the assumption that it will consume the nuclear fuel with specific characteristics, such as the amount of highly enriched uranium and certain thermal response. Any deviation may result in a nuclear accident. We can get as many as 15 Chernobyl disasters at a time, with a danger of such a scale to Ukraine, Russia and Europe that the entire world's civilization will fail to cope with them".

Supernova shock wave blows-away huge clumps of cosmic clutter

© NASA/CXC/A. Hobart
Supernova Remnant G352.7-0.1
A supernova remnant called G352.7-0.1 has swept away about 45 times the Sun's mass worth of material during its expansion. This is an unusual occurrence, leading researchers to believe that remnant interacted with a massive amount of dense material. A Chandra X-ray telescope study of the remnant (that is about 24,000 lights years from Earth) was used to make the find.

This may indicate that a special type of stellar evolution has occurred, involving a giant star that ran into unusually dense material before exploding to form a supernova remnant. This supernova - G352.7-0.1 -- has other interesting traits that scientists are still looking to explain. G352.7-0.1 is found in the Milky Way galaxy.


'Cherry tree from space' mystery baffles Japan

Cherry Pips
© South China Morning Post
The cherry pips on board the space station.
Tokyo - A cosmic mystery is uniting monks and scientists in Japan after a tree grown from a cherry stone that orbited the Earth for eight months bloomed years earlier than expected -- and with very surprising flowers.

The four-year-old sapling -- grown from a cherry pit that spent time onboard the International Space Station (ISS) -- burst into blossom on April 1, possibly a full six years ahead of Mother Nature's normal schedule.

Its early blooming turned on its head the received wisdom of the Buddhist brothers at the ancient temple in central Japan where the tree is growing. "We are amazed to see how fast it has grown," Masahiro Kajita, chief priest at the Ganjoji temple in Gifu, told AFP by telephone.

"A stone from the original tree had never sprouted before. We are very happy because it will succeed the old tree, which is said to be 1,250 years old."

The wonder pip was among 265 harvested from the celebrated Chujo-hime-seigan-zakura tree, selected as part of a project to gather seeds from different kinds of cherry trees at 14 locations across Japan.

The stones were sent to the ISS in November 2008 and came back to Earth in July the following year with Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata after circling the globe 4,100 times.

War pigs: Navy to unveil Star Wars-like weapon in San Diego

© US Navy
This summer, San Diego will host the public unveiling of a military weapon that the Navy's chief scientist calls a Star Wars-like technology that is nevertheless now viable.

In July, the Navy will hold a static display of its $500 million electromagnetic railgun prototype program at San Diego Naval Base, aboard the Joint High Speed Vessel Millinocket. It's the same ship on which the Navy will perform the first maritime firing test of the weapon in 2016.

"The American public has never seen it," said Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, chief of naval research, in a recent telephone press conference.

"Frankly, we think it might be the right time for them to know what we've been doing behind closed doors in a Star Wars fashion," he said. "It's now reality. It's not science fiction. It's real and you can look at it."

120+ Computer-generated nonsense papers pulled from peer-reviewed science journals

© Reuters
More than 120 bogus scientific articles have been published in peer-reviewed publications) from 2008 to 2013, according to computer scientist Cyril Labbé, confirming suspicions that sometimes, papers that read like gibberish are actually gibberish. Again.

This is the abstract of a fictional article written by me, generated by SCIgen.
In 2005, MIT students developed (the super fun to use) SCIgen, a program which throws random, jargon-laden sentences together to produce documents that seem like computer-science papers. The program was designed to "maximize amusement, rather than coherence." According to the creators of the program, it can also be used to test the paper-acceptance standards of science conferences. They wrote in 2005 that they had, in fact, submitted a fake paper titled "Rooter: A Methodology for the Typical Unification of Access Points and Redundancy," to the World Multiconference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics (WMSCI) for just this reason - and that it was accepted (at least at first).

New data explains decline of giant animals in Basin of Mexico

Prof. Dave
Professor Dave Huddart, Director of Research and Enterprise at LJMU.
Research that shows how a volcanic event might have wiped out mammoths, including sabre-toothed cats, in the Basin of Mexico has been reported by LJMU Professors Dave Huddart and Silvia Gonzalez. They worked in collaboration with the Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolas de Hidalgo and the United States Geological Survey to report these findings in the Quaternary Science Reviews (2014).

They discovered that the extinction could have been caused by a series of volcanic events and therefore the primary cause was environmental disruption and not man-made factors. This is despite the fact that Paleo-Indian populations were also present in this region at this time and several have been found associated with the volcanic ash deposits.

Most of the work was carried out at Tocuila Mammoth Museum (Texcoco) where over a 1,000 bones from at least seven Columbian mammoths were found and are exposed in volcanic mudflow deposits from an eruption of Nevado de Toluca volcano. These are interbedded in a series of lake sediments with many volcanic ashes and the meteorite airburst layer. The sequence has been dated by radiocarbon dating of bones and shells and from the various volcanic ash layers which act as marker horizons.

Hard-to-kill star survives nearby supernova explosion (Video, Photo)

A lucky star somehow survived the explosive death of its stellar companion, new images reveal.
© X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/F.Seward et al; Optical: NOAO/CTIO/MCELS, DSS
This labeled image shows a star that has survived a nearby supernova explosion in the Large Magellanic Cloud about 160,000 light-years from Earth. The purple is X-ray data from the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, and the yellow and cyan optical light captured by the Magellanic Cloud Emission Line Survey in Chile.
Scientists located the star while examining DEM L241, which lies about 160,000 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small galaxy neighboring our own Milky Way. The supernova remnant itself is very bright in X-rays, indicating it's still hot.

Comment: Don't miss the electrical connection:

Electric universe: Organic molecules in space
Electric 'Creation' in an Electric Universe


DNA nanobots deliver drugs in living cockroaches

© Daly and Newton/Getty Images
As much computing power as a Commodore 64.

It's a computer - inside a cockroach. Nano-sized entities made of DNA that are able to perform the same kind of logic operations as a silicon-based computer have been introduced into a living animal.

The DNA computers - known as origami robots because they work by folding and unfolding strands of DNA - travel around the insect's body and interact with each other, as well as the insect's cells. When they uncurl, they can dispense drugs carried in their folds.

"DNA nanorobots could potentially carry out complex programs that could one day be used to diagnose or treat diseases with unprecedented sophistication," says Daniel Levner, a bioengineer at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University.

Levner and his colleagues at Bar Ilan University in Ramat-Gan, Israel, made the nanobots by exploiting the binding properties of DNA. When it meets a certain kind of protein, DNA unravels into two complementary strands.

By creating particular sequences, the strands can be made to unravel on contact with specific molecules - say, those on a diseased cell. When the molecule unravels, out drops the package wrapped inside.

Mars, Earth, sun to line up Tuesday

An artist's conception of a previous Mars opposition from a few years ago. The distances between the sun, the planets and the distant nebula are not to scale.
Skywatchers will get a rare treat Tuesday night when Mars, Earth and the sun will be arranged in a nearly straight line.

Every two years, Mars reaches a point in its orbit called "opposition," when the planet lies directly opposite the sun in Earth's sky, according to Astronomy magazine.

This means Mars rises near sunset and remains visible all night long as it moves nearly overhead across the night sky. It will be a bright burnt orange color, NASA's Mars Exploration Program reports, and almost 10 times brighter than the brightest stars in the sky.

Severe 'Heartbleed' bug undoes Web encryption, reveals Yahoo passwords

heartbleed openssl security bug
© screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET;
A Heartbleed vulnerability tester shows Yahoo to be afflicted by the bug, which can reveal passwords and in principle let others create a bogus version of the Web site.
A flaw in software that's widely used to secure Web communications means that passwords and other highly sensitive data could be exposed. Some say they've already found hundreds of Yahoo passwords.

A major new vulnerability called Heartbleed could let attackers gain access to users' passwords and fool people into using bogus versions of Web sites. Some already say they've found Yahoo passwords as a result.

The problem, disclosed Monday night, is in open-source software called OpenSSL that's widely used to encrypt Web communications. Heartbleed can reveal the contents of a server's memory, where the most sensitive of data is stored. That includes private data such as usernames, passwords, and credit card numbers. It also means an attacker can get copies of a server's digital keys then use that to impersonate servers or to decrypt communications from the past or potentially the future, too.