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Fireball 2

Planetary defense system: Asteroid flyby will test NASA's ability to locate space threats

An asteroid due to make a close approach to Earth in October will test NASA's planetary defense system and assess the capability of scientists to locate future threats, the organization's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has announced.

NASA scientists are "excited" about the upcoming flyby, according to a statement released by the JPL on Friday, as it will provide a chance to "test NASA's network of observatories and scientists who work with planetary defense."

The '2012 TC4' asteroid, which is estimated to be between 30 and 100ft (10 and 30 meters) in size, is expected to make a flyby past Earth on October 12.

Blue Planet

Stunning timelapse of Earth filmed from space by ISS astronaut (VIDEO)

© A Johnson / YouTube A Johnson
NASA astronaut Jack Fischer shared astounding high-definition, timelapse footage from the International Space Station (ISS) as it sailed over the US.

Fischer posted the awesome footage Sunday, which was recorded as the crew soared above San Diego, California to Denver, Colorado some 250 miles (400kph) above ground at 17,500 mph.

"San Diego to Denver...at night...from space. It always amazes me how fast we're cruisin' around the planet, but I sure love the view!," wrote Fischer.

Gold Coins

Cryptocurrency hype and the future of blockchain technologies

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum are the wave of the future, right?

So why is all the latest news about their value in US dollars? Isn't that kind of backwards?

Obviously, these new digital currencies have a ways to go...

It doesn't help that the systems in place are less than stellar, and we're still seeing hacking resulting in people losing money.

But what about the future of blockchain technologies as a whole? Those are pretty awesome, right?

Well, yes and no. If you cut out the hype, you'll have a much better idea about where all of this stuff is heading.

Cloud Lightning

New food-making technology? Finnish scientists have worked out how to make food from electricity

© ourtesy of Lappeenranta University of Technology)
... tasty?
A team of researchers in Finland has successfully created food using electricity.

Well, calling it food is a bit of a stretch at this point-but it's a start. By mixing three ingredients into a coffee-cup-sized bioreactor and supplying an electric shock, they zapped a powder into being that's around 50% protein and 25% carbohydrates, with the rest being fat and nucleic acid.


Study shows quantum tunneling takes time

© NPINE/Shutterstock
TIME OUT Electrons can escape their atoms, even if the particles don’t have enough energy to do so, through quantum tunneling. But such tunneling takes time, a new study suggests.
Experiments tested whether electrons could escape an atom instantaneously

Quantum particles can burrow through barriers that should be impenetrable - but they don't do it instantaneously, a new experiment suggests.

The process, known as quantum tunneling, takes place extremely quickly, making it difficult to confirm whether it takes any time at all. Now, in a study of electrons escaping from their atoms, scientists have pinpointed how long the particles take to tunnel out: around 100 attoseconds, or 100 billionths of a billionth of a second, researchers report July 14 in Physical Review Letters.

In quantum tunneling, a particle passes through a barrier despite not having enough energy to cross it. It's as if someone rolled a ball up a hill but didn't give it a hard enough push to reach the top, and yet somehow the ball tunneled through to the other side.

Although scientists knew that particles could tunnel, until now, "it was not really clear how that happens, or what, precisely, the particle does," says physicist Christoph Keitel of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg, Germany. Theoretical physicists have long debated between two possible options. In one model, the particle appears immediately on the other side of the barrier, with no initial momentum. In the other, the particle takes time to pass through, and it exits the tunnel with some momentum already built up.

Monkey Wrench

Hackers use cheap robot to crack open leading-brand combination safe

The robot can be adapted to fit any combination safe by 3D-printing two new parts

Using a cheap robot, a team of hackers has cracked open a leading-brand combination safe, live on stage in Las Vegas.

The team from SparkFun Electronics was able to open a SentrySafe safe in around 30 minutes.

The robot is able to reduce the number of possible combinations from one million to just 1,000, before quickly and automatically trying the remaining combinations until it breaks in.

After the robot discovered the combination was 51.36.93, the safe popped open - to rapturous applause from the audience of several hundred hackers.

People 2

New study: Greater risk of stereotyping is linked to higher cognitive abilities

© David Lick and Jonathan Freeman
People with higher cognitive abilities are more likely to learn and apply social stereotypes, finds a new study. The results, stemming from a series of experiments, show that those with higher cognitive abilities also more easily unlearn stereotypes when presented with new information.

"Superior cognitive abilities are often associated with positive outcomes, such as academic achievement and social mobility," says David Lick, a postdoctoral researcher in New York University's Department of Psychology and the study's lead author. "However, our work shows that some cognitive abilities can have negative consequences-specifically, that people who are adept at detecting patterns are especially quick to learn and apply social stereotypes."

"The good news is we also found that these individuals are better able to diminish their stereotyping when presented with new patterns that challenge existing stereotypical associations," adds co-author Jonathan Freeman, an assistant professor in NYU's Department of Psychology and Center for Neural Science and whose lab Lick works in.

Christmas Lights

How scientists are now using virtual reality technology to manipulate the mind

Three experiments from the University of Sussex's Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science show how virtual reality can help us understand human consciousness

Anil Seth has recently been experimenting with a new tool in his study of human consciousness: strobe lighting. A powerful strobe lamp, according to Seth, is capable of inducing altered states of consciousness, while allowing him to record brain signals at the same time. "It looks like we're simulating an altered state of consciousness, but we don't know for sure yet," Seth says. "We have to be careful. When you flicker a strobe light at someone you get messy data."

Comment: Think about this the next time you see a cop car with its strobes blaring, or enter a room with this type of lighting.

Seth, the co-director of the University of Sussex's Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, has been studying a fundamental scientific problem for most of his career: the question of how consciousness happens. "All my research is geared towards understanding what happens in the brain during conscious perception," Seth says.

Better Earth

Ahoy Mates! Scientific expedition to unlock secrets of 'lost continent' Zealandia

© Crixeo
Ancient super continent Gondwana and how it's landmass divided.
Scientists are attempting to unlock the secrets of the "lost continent" of Zealandia, setting sail Friday to investigate the huge underwater landmass east of Australia that has never been properly studied. Zealandia, which is mostly submerged beneath the South Pacific, was once part of the Gondwana super-continent but broke away some 75 million years ago.

In a paper published in the Geological Society of America's Journal GSA Today in February, researchers made the case that it should be considered a new continent. They said it was a distinct geological entity that met all the criteria applied to Earth's other continents, including elevation above the surrounding area, distinctive geology, a well-defined area and a crust much thicker than that found on the ocean floor.

Covering five million square kilometres (1.9 million square miles), it extends from south of New Zealand northward to New Caledonia and west to the Kenn Plateau off Australia's east.

Drill ship Joides Resolution will recover sediments and rocks lying deep beneath the sea bed in a bid to discover how the region has behaved over the past tens of millions of years. The recovered cores will be studied onboard, allowing scientists to address issues such as oceanographic history, extreme climates, sub-seafloor life, plate tectonics and earthquake-generating zones.
© World News
Zealandia plateaus with New Zealand (center) shown in brown.

Comment: Bruce Luyendyk, a professor of marine geophysics at UC-Santa Barbara, first proposed the concept of Zealandia in 1995.


Iran successfully tests Phoenix space rocket meant to deliver small satellites into orbit - Update: US complains

© Kirill Kudryavtsev / Reuters
Iran says it has successfully tested the Simorgh rocket, a two-stage vehicle meant to deliver small space satellites into orbit. The test comes years behind schedule and may be the second one for the rocket. Named after a mythical beast of Persian folklore, the rocket was first unveiled under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2010 as part of the celebrations of Iran's first domestic satellite launch. Simorgh's maiden flight was initially scheduled for the same year, but the project was plagued by years of delays. On Thursday, Iranian media reported that the space rocket had been successfully tested for the first time.

"The Imam Khomeini Space Centre was officially opened with the successful test of the Simorgh (Phoenix) space launch vehicle," state television said. "The Simorgh can place a satellite weighing up to 250kg (550lbs) in an orbit of 500km (310 miles)." State television showed footage of the launch from the site decorated with pictures of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his successor as Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. "The Imam Khomeini Space Centre ... is a large complex that includes all stages of the preparation, launch, control and guidance of satellites," state television added.

Comment: In August of 2008 Iran successfully launched a carrier rocket Safir (Messenger), capable of putting lightweight satellites into low-earth orbit.
See also: Update: US State Department: Iran's Satellite Launch Violates UN Resolution
The United States considers Iran's launch of a satellite to space with a long-range rocket to be a provocative act that violates a UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR), US Department of State spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a briefing on Thursday.

"We would consider that a violation of the UNSCR 2231," Nauert told reporters. "We consider that to be continued ballistic missile development. We also remain very concerned about Iran's support for terrorism. We consider this to be a provocative action."