That level of caution may sound absurd today, but a new study shows trips to outer space can still mess with astronauts on a physiological level.
New research from Johns Hopkins finds that long-term deep space missions can alter brain proteins and cause cognitive deficits like lapses in attention and slower reaction times. Researchers came to this conclusion by exposing rats to high-energy particles that simulate the conditions that astronauts would experience in deep space, then running them through a series of test that mimic the fitness assessments that astronauts, pilots, and soldiers are required to take.
But the strange thing scientists found is that deep-space conditions don’t affect everyone the same way.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
Neurochemical research has shown that the hormone released when people are in love is released in animals in the same intimate circumstances.
Read more. [Image: tramod/Flickr]
A majority of Americans don’t believe in even the most fundamental discovery of 20th century physics, which 99.9 percent of members of the National Academies of Sciences do: that our universe began with an enormous explosion, the Big Bang.
51 percent of people in a new AP/GFK poll said they were “not too confident” or “not at all confident” that the statement “the universe began 13.8 billion years ago with a big bang” was correct.
In fact, fewer Americans were confident in that statement that any other on the list, which covered topics like vaccines, evolution, and the Earth’s age.
Read more. [Image: NASA]
From about 1915, when the statistical record begins, until 1980, about one in every 50 babies born was a twin, a rate of 2 percent.
Then, the rate began to increase: by 1995, it was 2.5 percent. The rate surpassed 3 percent in 2001 and hit 3.3 percent in 2010. Now, one out of every 30 babies born is a twin.
That’s a lot of “extra” twins above the 1980 baseline, but how many?
When the CDC calculated the number through 2009, they pegged it at 865,000. Now that several years more data is available, I recalculated the number. I took the number of twins that would have been born if the 1980 twin rate had held, and subtracted it from how many twins were actually born.
The result: 1,009,337! That’s a million extra twins from 1981 through 2012, the most recent year for which data is available.
Read more. [Image: Alexis Madrigal]
From here on Earth, the planet Kepler-186f is a faint spot in the chaotic and twinkling universe. Its star is dim and far, far away.
But Kepler-186f is making headlines on Earth because, despite its distance, it looks a lot like our own planet.
The Kepler-186 system is in the constellation Cygnus, which stargazers will know as the easy-to-spot swan in the northern hemisphere’s summertime sky.
From a human perspective, that makes it unusual. Kepler-186f is the first Earth-like planet in the habitable zone around its star that scientists have ever found. (!)
Right now, five human spacecrafts study Mars by hanging out near it. Two do it from the Martian surface—the Curiosity rover, which began its mission in 2012, and the more-than-a-decade-old Opportunity rover—and three do it while orbiting around the red planet.
Earlier this month, one of those kinds of spacecraft happened to see the other.
On April 11, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter passed near Aeolis Mons, a mountain near the equator in the planet’s eastern hemisphere. It photographed a hilly region nearby known as the Kimberley, and there it caught a robot that’s been hanging out among the hills for the past few months: the Mars Curiosity Rover.
Read more. [Image: NASA]
Right now, 500 light years away from Earth, there’s a planet that looks a lot like our own. It is bathed in dim orangeish light, which at high noon is only as bright as the golden hour before sunset back home.
NASA scientists are calling the planet Kepler-186f, and it’s unlike anything they’ve found. The big news: Kepler-186f is the closest relative to the Earth that researchers have discovered.
It’s the first Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of another star—the sweet spot between too-hot Mercury-like planets and too-cold Neptunes— and it is likely to give scientists their first real opportunity to seek life elsewhere in the universe. “It’s no longer in the realm of science fiction,” said Elisa Quintana, a researcher at the SETI Institute.
But if there is indeed life on Kepler-186f, it may not look like what we have here. Given the redder wavelengths of light on the planet, vegetation there would sprout in hues of yellow and orange instead of green.
Read more. [Image: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech]
For most daydreamers, predicting the future is a business of missing more than you hit.
For example, we still haven’t eliminated childbirth by inventing designer babies grown in artificial wombs, a prediction the science editor of LIFE magazine made 50 years ago.
But that same editor surmised we’d be able to grow complete human organs from cell tissue in laboratories, and most Americans now agree that this sounds like something that will happen. Eighty-one percent of those polled believe organs will be developed in petri dishes by 2064. (Hey, why not, scientists are already working on lab-grown ears and noses.)
That’s according to a new Pew Research Center study that asked Americans for their feelings and predictions about the next 50 years of science.
But Americans’ optimism was not evenly distributed. If they were confident in the biomedical future, they were pessimistic about space. Only a third of us now believe that we’ll have colonized another planet by 2064. Here are nine other predictions Americans made.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
When we see patterns in the atmosphere from space, they tend to be in the clouds of powerful storms. These all have roughly the same form: they look like a spiral galaxy with arms spinning out from the core.
But meteorologists have detected other organizational principles at work. Like, take the fascinating image above. It shows …. well, I wasn’t sure exactly what it showed. A meteorologist’s blog post described them as “convectively-generated mesospheric airglow waves,” but that did not quite explain how they worked or what they were.
So I got in touch with Steven Miller, senior research scientist and deputy director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA) at Colorado State University. Miller and his colleagues discovered these concentric rings while working with the newish satellite Suomi satellite’s next-generation low-light sensor. (They published a paper on the discovery in PNAS.)
Miller told me I was looking at glowing ripples in the atmosphere itself!
“These are literally ‘ripples of glowing atmosphere’ whose structure is the result of a train of gravity waves that is passing through a thin layer of the atmosphere that produces a very faint veil of light called ‘nightglow,’” he said. “These are not clouds (although they were forced by the thunderstorms below), and they do not occur in the troposphere, where our ‘weather’ is. They are much higher up—at the interface between the mesosphere and the thermosphere—about 90 km [55 miles] above the surface! The glow is revealing important dynamics of our atmosphere that would otherwise be completely invisible to us.”
Read more. [Image: Suomi]
Researchers on April 7 said that they have produced the most accurate measurement to date of how fast the universe was flying apart when it was 3 billion years old. At the rate of 68 km/s, the universe was growing at a rate of 1% every 44 million years at the time, which is actually slower than expected.