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Mon, 26 Sep 2016
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China's Tiangong-1 space lab expected to hurtle back into the earth's atmosphere sometime in 2017

© Adrian Mann
China's Tiangong-1 space lab will eventually burn up in earth's atmosphere.
The lab is currently intact and orbiting at an average height of 370 kilometers, officials said in quotes published by the official Xinhua news agency. It is expected to enter Earth's atmosphere in late 2017.

Wu Ping, deputy director of the manned space engineering office, said Tiangong-1 has been in service for four and a half years - two and a half years longer than it was designed for.

"Based on our calculation and analysis, most parts of the space lab will burn up during falling," she said, adding that it was unlikely to affect aviation activities or cause damage to the ground.

Ms Wu said China highly valued the management of space debris "conducting research and tests on space debris mitigation and cleaning", Xinhua reported.


Got swag? Researchers link exaggerated walking movements with aggression

© University of Portsmouth
Liam Satchell with a participant.
The way people walk can give clues to how aggressive they are, a new exploratory study from the University of Portsmouth has found.

The researchers from the Department of Psychology assessed the personalities of 29 participants, before using motion capture technology to record them walking on a treadmill at their natural speed.

The study found that the exaggerated movement of both the upper and lower body indicated aggression.

Lead researcher Liam Satchell said: "When walking, the body naturally rotates a little; as an individual steps forward with their left foot, the left side of the pelvis will move forward with the leg, the left shoulder will move back and the right shoulder forward to maintain balance. An aggressive walk is one where this rotation is exaggerated."

Comment: See also:
Direction you walk when blindfolded reveals whether you are inhibited or approach oriented

2 + 2 = 4

Neurons feel the force - physical interactions control brain development

Researchers have identified a new mechanism controlling brain development: that neurons not only 'smell' chemicals in their environment, but also 'feel' their way through the developing brain.

Scientists have found that developing nerve cells are able to 'feel' their environment as they grow, helping them form the correct connections within the brain and with other parts of the body. The results, reported in the journal Nature Neuroscience, could open up new avenues of research in brain development, and lead to potential treatments for spinal cord injuries and other types of neuronal damage.


Human brain map gets a bold new update

The new Allen Brain Atlas combines neuroimaging and tissue staining to offer an unprecedented level of resolution

© Allen Institute for Brain Science
Most of us think little of hopping on Google Maps to look at everything from a bird's-eye view of an entire continent to an on-the-ground view of a specific street, all carefully labeled. Thanks to a digital atlas published this week, the same is now possible with the human brain.

Ed Lein and colleagues at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle have created a comprehensive, open-access digital atlas of the human brain, which was published this week in The Journal of Comparative Neurology.

"Essentially what we were trying to do is to create a new reference standard for a very fine anatomical structural map of the complete human brain," says Lein, the principal investigator on the project. "It may seem a little bit odd, but actually we are a bit lacking in types of basic reference materials for mapping the human brain that we have in other organisms like mouse or like monkey, and that is in large part because of the enormous size and complexity of the human brain."

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Toilet to tank: Toyota uses sewage sludge to power zero-emissions vehicles

© Reuters/Gary Cameron
Highest of tech; powered by human waste
Hydrogen fuel cell cars could help solve the global warming crisis, but nobody wants to buy them. Yoshikazu Tanaka, chief engineer of the Toyota Mirai, Toyota's hydrogen fuel cell car, calls it a "chicken or the egg" problem: no one wants to purchase hydrogen cars because there are no hydrogen fuel stations, and nobody wants to build hydrogen fuel stations because there are no hydrogen cars.

But Toyota thinks it may have found a solution. For unlimited clean energy, it's turning to one of the dirtiest places there is: the toilet.

In Fukuoka, Japan, the automaker is converting human waste into hydrogen to fuel the Mirai. The process is pretty simple. At a wastewater treatment plant, like the Fukuoka City Central Water Processing Plant, sewage is separated into liquid and solid waste. The solid waste, called sewage sludge, is exactly what it sounds like: a foul-smelling, brown lump. Most sewage sludge is thrown in landfills.


DARPA physicists reveal 'significant breakthrough' in quantum teleportation field

© Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters
Two separate teams of scientists funded by the Pentagon's research arm have revealed significant breakthroughs in the field of quantum teleportation which could have a major impact on cybersecurity and encryption.

Quantum teleportation is a process by which quantum information can be transmitted from one place to another, and scientists have long sought to prove it is possible.

Two separate DARPA-funded studies by physicists based in China and Calgary, Canada have now confirmed that not only is quantum teleportation a real phenomenon but they also demonstrated that it's a workable technology that could one day help build an unhackable quantum communication systems to span great distances.

However, the breakthrough doesn't mean that sci fi-style human teleportation is any closer as the photons aren't actually disappearing from one place and appearing in another.

Instead, it's the information that's being teleported through a phenomenon called 'quantum entanglement', which Albert Einstein called "spooky action at a distance".

Microscope 2

Microsoft using artificial intelligence to 'solve' cancer problem by reprogramming disease

© Microsoft
Microsoft researcher wants to program the body, the same way you can program a computer, to fight cancer.
Researchers are using algorithms and machine learning to tackle the disease

Microsoft is working towards fighting cancer using computer science such as machine learning and algorithms.

By treating cancer like an information processing system, Microsoft researchers are able to adapt tools typically used to model computational processes to model biological ones.

Ultimately, the company hopes to create molecular computers to program the body to fight cancer cells immediately after detection.

"We are trying to change the way research is done on a daily basis in biology," said Jasmin Fisher, a senior researcher who works in the programming principles and tools group in the Microsoft's research lab in Cambridge.

This is combined with a data-driven approach; putting machine learning at the core of Microsoft's attempts to try to tackle the disease. The company wants to take the biological data that is available and use analysis tools to better understand and treat the disease.

"I think it's a very natural thing for Microsoft to be looking at because we have tremendous expertise in computer science and what is going on in cancer is a computational problem," Chris Bishop, director of the Cambridge-based lab, told WIRED.

Comment: See also:


Russian space agency Roscosmos announces start of moon landing simulations

© Pockocmoc
Russian scientists are using 1970s tech to discover how easy it would be for their cosmonauts to walk on the lunar surface.
Russian space agency Roscosmos and top spacecraft manufacturer RSC Energia have begun simulating a manned landing on the moon, using a unique gravity imitation platform.

The researchers used Selen, a unique platform simulating the moon's gravity, built by RSC Energia in the early 1970s. The experiments, performed by Mark Serov of Roscosmos' test flight department and Energia's cosmonaut instructor Alexander Kaleri, focused on the cosmonaut's ability to get in and out of the rover as well as walking on the lunar surface.

According to the official site of Roscosmos, experts from RSC Energia are also working on an upgraded spacesuit which would allow easier walking on the moon, as well as the ability to get up unaided should the wearer fall down.

Fireball 2

Hubble Telescope records Comet 332P/Ikeya-Murakami disintegration

© : NASA, ESA, D. Jewitt (UCLA)
This Hubble Space Telescope image, shows the slow migration of building-size fragments of Comet 332P/Ikeya-Murakami over a three-day period in January 2016. The pieces broke off of the main nucleus in late 2015 as the icy, ancient comet approached the sun in its orbit.
As a comet approaches the Sun, it heats up and begins to outgas, causing jets of gas and dust to erupt from its surface. These jets can sometimes act like tiny rocket engines, spinning up the comet's rotation and loosening chunks of material that drift off into space.

Over the span of three days in January 2016, the Hubble Space Telescope captured detailed images of just that scenario happening to Comet 332P/Ikeya-Murakami, or Comet 332P, located roughly 67 million miles from Earth.

The Hubble observations revealed 25 building-size blocks made of a mixture of ice and dust that broke off from the comet and are now are scattered along a 3,000-mile-long trail, larger than the width of the continental U.S. The icy chunks comprise about 4 percent of the parent comet and range in size from roughly 65 feet wide to 200 feet wide. They are drifting away from the comet and each other at a few miles per hour, about the walking speed of an adult. See animation here.

The Hubble observations also reveal that the comet is much smaller than previously thought, measuring only 1,600 feet across, about the length of five football fields.

According to a NASA statement, these observations provide insight into the volatile behavior of comets as they approach the sun, begin to vaporize, and unleash dynamical forces. Comet 332P was 150 million miles from the sun, slightly beyond the orbit of Mars, when Hubble spotted the breakup.


Mysterious 'Planet Nine' might have tilted our whole Solar System

© Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC)
Big bully?

A jealous Planet Nine may have shoved its siblings for attention. If a massive ninth planet exists in our solar system, it might explain why the planets are out of line with the sun.

The eight major planets still circle the sun in the original plane of their birth. The sun rotates on its own axis, but surprisingly, that spin is tilted: the axis lies at an angle of 6 degrees relative to a line perpendicular to the plane of the planets.

There are a few theories to explain this jaunty slant, including the temporary tug of a passing star aeons ago, or interactions between the magnetic fields of the sun and the primordial dusty disc that formed the solar system. But it is hard to account for why the sun's spin is aligned the way it is relative to the planets.

Two teams of astronomers have just announced a new explanation: a hypothetical massive planet in the outer solar system could be interfering with all the other planets' orbits.