Curious about Everything

Category: Science (Page 1 of 2)

Vacuum-sealed container from the 1972 Apollo 17 Moon landing will soon be opened for the first time

Gizmodo »

Recognizing that future scientists will have better tools and richer scientific insights, they refrained from opening a portion of the lunar samples returned from the historic Apollo missions. One of these sample containers, after sitting untouched for 50 years, is now set to be opened.

The sample in question was collected by Gene Cernan in 1972. The Apollo 17 astronaut was working in the Taurus-Littrow Valley when he hammered a 28-inch-long (70 cm) tube into the surface, which he did to collect samples of lunar soil and gas. The lower half of this canister was sealed while Cernan was still on the Moon. Back on Earth, the canister was placed in yet another vacuum chamber for good measure. Known as the 73001 Apollo sample container, it remains untouched to this very day.

But the time has come to open this vessel and investigate its precious cargo, according to a European Space Agency press release. The hope is that lunar gases might be present inside, specifically hydrogen, helium, and other light gases. Analysis of these gases could further our understanding of lunar geology and shed new light on how to best store future samples, whether they be gathered on asteroids, the Moon, or Mars.

The year’s top 10 science stories, as chosen by scientists

  1. The billionaire space race
  2. Racial biases in the healthcare system
  3. Cop26: time to act
  4. Fibromyalgia: new understanding could lead to treatments for chronic pain
  5. A boom in precise protein-structure prediction by AI
  6. Extreme weather becomes more extreme
  7. Record numbers of children living with obesity
  8. The Winchcombe meteorite: a gift from space
  9. Fatty RNA particles to the rescue, for some at least
  10. The role of nature in tackling global heating is finally recognized

More from Julia PG Jones at The Guardian »

Bill Gates’ backed nuclear power company, TerraPower, selects a site in Wyoming for a first-of-it’s-kind sodium-cooled reactor

John Timmer / Ars Technica »

Kemmerer, Wyoming, population roughly 2,500, has been the site of the coal-fired Naughton Power Plant, which is being closed. The TerraPower project will see it replaced by a 345 megawatt reactor that would pioneer a number of technologies that haven’t been commercially deployed before.

These include a reactor design that needs minimal refueling, cooling by liquid sodium, and a molten-salt heat-storage system that will provide the plant with the flexibility needed to integrate better with renewable energy.

More »

Video » Satellite images show the change in the Arctic

European Space Agency, ESA via YouTube »

Satellites images from space play a vital role in monitoring the rapid changes taking place in the Arctic. Tracking ice lost from the world’s glaciers, ice sheets and frozen land shows that Earth is losing ice at an accelerating rate. Currently more than a trillion tonnes of ice is lost each year. The sooner Earth’s temperature is stabilized, the more manageable the impacts of ice loss will be.


Case Closed » 99.9% of scientists agree climate emergency caused by humans

» The Guardian

“It is really case closed. There is nobody of significance in the scientific community who doubts human-caused climate change,” said the lead author, Mark Lynas, a visiting fellow at Cornell University.

This echoed the view expressed in August by the world’s leading scientific body, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which said: “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.”

The general public does not yet understand how certain experts are, nor is it reflected in political debate. This is especially true in the US, where fossil fuel companies have funded a disinformation campaign that falsely suggests the science is not yet settled, similar to the campaign by tobacco industries to cast doubt on the link between smoking and cancer.

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Study » Mark Lynas, Benjamin Z Houlton, and Simon Perry, IOP Science »

While controls over the Earth’s climate system have undergone rigorous hypothesis-testing since the 1800s, questions over the scientific consensus of the role of human activities in modern climate change continue to arise in public settings. We update previous efforts to quantify the scientific consensus on climate change by searching the recent literature for papers sceptical of anthropogenic-caused global warming. From a dataset of 88125 climate-related papers published since 2012, when this question was last addressed comprehensively, we examine a randomized subset of 3000 such publications. We also use a second sample-weighted approach that was specifically biased with keywords to help identify any sceptical peer-reviewed papers in the whole dataset. We identify four sceptical papers out of the sub-set of 3000, as evidenced by abstracts that were rated as implicitly or explicitly sceptical of human-caused global warming. In our sample utilizing pre-identified sceptical keywords we found 28 papers that were implicitly or explicitly sceptical. We conclude with high statistical confidence that the scientific consensus on human-caused contemporary climate change—expressed as a proportion of the total publications—exceeds 99% in the peer reviewed scientific literature.

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The Augmented Cane, a new white cane that uses camera and sensors to help visually impaired

The Augmented Cane helps people with impaired vision navigate by using sensors to understand the environment and feedback modes to help guide and inform the user.

The Augmented Cane uses its variety of sensors to overcome the challenges of helping a person with impaired vision navigate different challenges. The LIDAR measures distances to obstacles, the inertial measurement unit (IMU) provides orientation estimates, the GPS measures outdoor position, and the camera takes images.

Science Robotics »

Globally, more than 250 million people have impaired vision and face challenges navigating outside their homes, affecting their independence, mental health, and physical health. Navigating unfamiliar routes is challenging for people with impaired vision because it may require avoiding obstacles, recognizing objects, and wayfinding indoors and outdoors. Existing approaches such as white canes, guide dogs, and electronic travel aids only tackle some of these challenges. Here, we present the Augmented Cane, a white cane with a comprehensive set of sensors and an intuitive feedback method to steer the user, which addresses navigation challenges and improves mobility for people with impaired vision. We compared the Augmented Cane with a white cane by having sighted and visually impaired participants complete navigation challenges while blindfolded: walking along hallways, avoiding obstacles, and following outdoor waypoints. Across all experiments, the Augmented Cane increased the walking speed for participants with impaired vision by 18 ± 7% and sighted participants by 35 ± 12% compared with a white cane. The increase in walking speed may be due to accurate steering assistance, reduced cognitive load, fewer contacts with the environment, and higher participant confidence. We also demonstrate advanced navigation capabilities of the Augmented Cane: indoor wayfinding, recognizing and steering the participant to a key object, and navigating a sequence of indoor and outdoor challenges. The open-source and low-cost design of the Augmented Cane provides a platform that may improve the mobility and quality of life of people with impaired vision.


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