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Thu, 22 Aug 2019
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Arianespace Vega rocket carrying UAE military satellite crashes into Atlantic after developing 'major anomaly'

Arianspace Vega rocket failure Jul 2019

The rocket suffered an "anomaly" two minutes after takeoff, causing its trajectory to degrade. The satellite was capable of capturing high definition images that could be used for mapping and gathering agricultural information as well as urban surveillance and monitoring of borders and coastlines.
French commercial rocket launch provider Arianespace has confirmed its VV15 mission, a Vega rocket carrying an Emirati military satellite, failed 2 minutes after launch, veering off course and crashing in the Atlantic Ocean.

"A major anomaly occurred, resulting in the loss of the mission," Luce Fabreguettes, executive VP of missions, operations and purchasing, said. "On behalf of Arianespace, I wish to express my deepest apologies to our customers for the loss of their payload and telling them how sorry I am."

The Vega launched from Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana at 1:53 GMT Thursday and left its intended course immediately before losing telemetry data two minutes into the launch, during its second-stage ignition phase.


Gene-edited babies and family planning

gene edited babies
Technology surrounding the human embryo has moved out of the realm of science fiction and into the reality of difficult decisions. Clinical embryologists fertilize human eggs for the purpose of helping couples conceive. The genetic makeup of these embryos are tested on a routine basis. And today, we no longer ask "can we," but rather, "should we" edit human embryos with the goal of implantation and delivery of a baby?

As a reproductive endocrinologist, I frequently encounter couples grappling with complicated reproductive issues. If one or both parents are affected by single gene disorders, these couples have the opportunity to first test their embryos and then decide whether to transfer an embryo carrying a mutation rather than finding out the genetic risk of their baby while pregnant. In some cases they may decide not to transfer an embryo that carries the mutation as part of the in vitro fertilization procedure.

These issues seem simple, but carry large consequences for patients. "Should we transfer an embryo affected with our genetic disorder?" "What should we do with our affected embryos if we do not transfer them?" Some patients will opt to skip testing altogether.


Pentagon looking to prep soldiers for 'battlefield nuclear warfare' with virtual reality tech

Battlefield tech
© Global Look/Sebastian Gollinow
The Pentagon has put out a call for virtual reality training environments with "radiological/nuclear considerations" - another sign that the US' unhealthy obsession with nuclear warfare isn't going away anytime soon.

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency, a Department of Defense division focused on countering weapons of mass destruction, is looking for virtual reality systems it can use to train combat forces in a "battlefield nuclear warfare environment." The agency issued a "sources sought notice" last week, seeking technical specs and other market information on "virtual training and testing programs" for combat troops "performing radiological threat objects find and interdict operations" - as well as fighting on the nuclear "battlefield."

"AR/VR capabilities will not replace field training requirements," the notice states, adding that its "purpose is to test warfighter scenarios and decision-making to provide users realistic outcomes to support training and course-of-action selection when faced with radiological/nuclear threats." It may also be used for "planning training scenarios" and "equipment testing events." While the addition of a realistic VR overlay of post-nuclear devastation could make soldiers more reluctant to push the big red button, that decision has never been left to the rank-and-file, and it's unlikely their commanders will be lining up to experience even the most high-tech post-apocalyptic training module.


Two asteroids to pass extremely close to Earth

asteroid 2019 MB4
Two large asteroids will make extremely close passes of Earth over the next couple of days.

While a number of asteroids - classed as Near Earth Objects (NEOs) - pass the Earth on a regular basis, these two will make an exceptionally close flyby.

On Tuesday, an object dubbed 2019 MB4 will pass at just 315 000km from Earth, a closer distance than the moon, which averages 385 000km away from the planet.

"This object is about the same size as Chelyabinsk asteroid of February 15, 2013. A larger asteroid, it was first observed at Pan-STARRS, Haleakala observatory in Hawaii on June 29 and its estimated diameter is between 17m and 38m (55 - 124 feet). Its closest approach to Earth is expected at 07:20 UTC on July 9 at a speed (relative to the Earth) of 7.17km/s," SAAO Science Engagement Astronomer Dr Daniel Cunnama told News24.

This asteroid is estimated to be 22m long - around half the length of an Airbus A380-800 - the biggest passenger plane in the world.

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory data revealed that 2019 NN3 will pass Earth on Wednesday at a distance of just 320 000km. That asteroid is estimated to be between 35m to 77m in length.

Comment: Expecting an asteroid? Proposed budget for NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office suddenly increased three-fold

Blue Planet

Interbreeding between Archaic Humans and Homo Sapiens in China is suggested by analysis of an Ancient molar

An analysis of a 160,000-year-old archaic human molar fossil discovered in China offers the first morphological evidence of interbreeding between archaic humans and Homo sapiens in Asia.
Molar comparison
© Christen Lee
The three-rooted lower molar anomaly in a recent Asian individual. Left: tooth sockets showing position of accessory root; right: three-rooted lower first molar tooth. Credit: Christine Lee
The study, which appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, centers on a three-rooted lower molar — a rare trait primarily found in modern Asians — that was previously thought to have evolved after H. sapiens dispersed from Africa.

The new research points to a different evolutionary path.

Comment: See more


Humans perform as well or better when exposed to high vs low CO2 concentrations says new study

A new paper finds the performance of test-taking (cognitive, decision-making) "astronaut-like" subjects exposed to 5000 ppm CO2 was "similar to or exceeded" the performance of those exposed to baseline (600 ppm). This study follows up on a 2018 paper that determined submariners exposed to 15000 ppm CO2 performed just as well as subjects exposed to 600 ppm.

Those of us who own CO2 monitors know that indoor (bedroom) CO2 concentrations typically vary between about 600 ppm during the day and 1000 ppm overnight - the latter earning a frowny face air quality rating.
CO2 Monitors
© NoTricksZone


Does the universe spin too?

Spinning Universe
© Shutterstock
Is the universe a spinner?
If you look around space, you'll notice a lot of things — the planets, stars, moons, even the galaxy itself — have one thing in common: they're spinning. So, is the universe spinning, too?

This mystery is one that cosmologists have been acutely studying, because it's one that can tell us about the fundamental nature of the universe.

"It's a very abstract question, as is most of cosmology, but those of us who study cosmology think it's a way to study fundamental physics," said Tess Jaffe, an astrophysicist at the University of Maryland and an assistant research scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "There are certain things we cannot test in a laboratory on Earth, so we use the universe and the geometry of the universe, which could tell us something about fundamental physics."

Scientists, in thinking about the universe's fundamental nature, started out by assuming that the universe is not rotating and is isotropic, meaning it looks the same in all directions. This assumption is consistent with Einstein's equations, but isn't required by them. From this thinking, scientists built a standard of cosmological model that describes the universe.

"This [assumption] is really encoded in the way we carry out our calculations, the way we analyze our data, in the way we do a lot of things," Daniela Saadeh, a research fellow in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, told Live Science. "But you have to test it. You can't just hope for the best."


China's Mars rover will launch in 2020, seeks signs of life and potential for livable human conditions

A mock astronaut walks in the Gobi Desert
A mock astronaut walks in the Gobi Desert near the C-Space Project Mars simulation base outside Jinchang, Northwest China's Gansu Province, in April, 2018.
Mission shows country has 'innovative spirit' to overcome challenges

Chinese scientists on Sunday announced that China will launch its first mission to Mars in 2020 and the construction of its rover has been completed.

The mission includes orbiting, landing and roving the Martian surface, an unprecedented achievement that shows China's innovative spirit in space exploration and courage to face great challenges, according to Chinese space experts.

The probe's primary mission is to detect signs of life on Mars, Ouyang Ziyuan, chief scientist of China's lunar exploration plan, said at a conference on satellite and space, held in Rizhao, East China's Shandong Province from Friday to Sunday.

The mission will also examine whether the planet has the potential to be transformed in some way in the future to make it livable for humans, the 21st Century Business Herald, reported on Sunday quoted Ouyang as saying.

The Chinese rover will examine the Red Planet's atmosphere, landscape, geological and magnetic characteristics, which could provide clues to the origin and evolution of Mars and the solar system, the newspaper reported.


Evolution, mutations, and "fooling the laymen": New episode of 'Science Uprising'

Michael Behe
© Evoluton News/screenshot
Michael Behe in Science Uprising, Episode 6, "Mutations: Failure to Invent."
In a lecture, Phillip Johnson cited physicist Richard Feynman on a scientist's obligation to be honest — not only with himself or in other scientific contexts but, not one bit less, when speaking to the lay public. "You should not fool the laymen when you're talking as a scientist." That such a thing would need to be said is itself revealing. What's more, Feynman insisted, you should "bend over backwards to show how you may be wrong."

The comments are taken from a Commencement address by Feynman in 1974 at Caltech. Johnson, a founding father of modern intelligent design theory, was so moved by this that he said "I wish it could be set to music."

As far as I know it hasn't been set to music. But the idea is a major theme in the new Science Uprising series. Scientists fool themselves and they fool non-scientists, not about dry technical details with no special significance, but about matters that bear on huge, life-altering world picture issues. One example is the role of mutations in evolution. That is the topic of Episode 6 of Science Uprising, "Mutations: Failure to Invent." It's out now; see it here:

Comment: Michael Behe has been a proponent of intelligent design since 1996 with the publication of Darwin's Black Box, in which he outlines his journey from a supporter of evolution as is is taught in the mainstream, to confronting the evidence that logically refute it.


Russia's future Moon base will use 'local resources' & 3D-printing - Roscosmos

View of Earth from  Moon
Russia's future compound on the Moon will operate on "local resources" and feature 3D-printed facilities allowing large standing crews to be housed and supported, Roscosmos space agency revealed.

Russia's ambitions to set up a base on the Moon are no secret, but little is known about what the facilities would look like. On Sunday, Roscosmos shed some light on the issue, saying that lunar construction projects will start after a series of shorter manned missions.

"Large-size compounds will be installed using local resources and additive technologies," the space agency said, referring to one of the newest 3D-printing methods.

Comment: See also: