Mystery of the Coldest Spot In the CMB Solved 38

Posted by timothy
from the also-known-as-the-wet-spot dept.
StartsWithABang writes: The cosmic microwave background is a thing of beauty, as not only does its uniform, cold temperature reveal a hot, dense past that began with the hot Big Bang, but its fluctuations reveal a pattern of overdensities and underdensities in the very early stages of the Universe. It's fluctuations just like these that give rise to the stars, galaxies, groups and clusters that exist today, as well as the voids in the vast cosmic web. But effects at the surface of last scattering are not the only ones that affect the CMB's temperature; if we want to make sure we've got an accurate map of what the Universe was born with, we have to take everything into account, including the effects of matter as it gravitationally grows and shrinks. As we do exactly this, we find ourselves discovering the causes behind the biggest anomalies in the sky, and it turns out that the standard cosmological model can explain it all.

How and Why the U-Pick Game Marathon Raises Money With Non-Stop Gaming (Video) 33

Posted by timothy
from the don't-tase-me-bro-it's-only-a-game dept.
On June 12 through 14th of this year, the fourth (not "fourth annual," but close) iteration of the U-Pick Video Game Marathon for Charity --“UPickVG IV” for short --will be streaming on an Internet connection near you. The U-Pick crew's volunteers will be playing and broadcasting video games, non-stop, as a fundraiser for Charity Water, a cause they've supported since the beginning. I talked with organizers Stephanie and Grant Kibler from their video-game lounge of a living room about what it takes to broadcast an online gathering like this, and why they've adopted this as an annual event. Hint: some esoteric video-capture hardware helps, and so does a beefy network connection, for high-quality streaming of games that pre-date today's multiplayer, network-oriented options. That's significant, because U-Pick's stable of titles isn't limited to modern ones, and observers are encouraged to suggest appropriate games (hence "U-Pick").The remote viewers' choices and donations influence the event by deciding which games are represented on the Wheel of Destiny that the team spins to decide which games get played.The play itself, though,*is* limited to the players who'll be on hand at a Northern Virginia co-working space that will serve as this year's venue. It turns out to be easier to stream the output of old consoles than it is to control them from remote (never mind the latency that would mean), but maybe one day participants will be able to play as well as shoulder-surf and laugh at the players' running commentary. You can check out the Upick page on Facebook, too, and watch one of their practice runs each Sunday. (Note: Video #1 talks mostly about the game play and how you can join. Video #2 - below - talks more about hardware and behind-the-scenes work.)

Wormholes Untangle a Black Hole Paradox 150

Posted by Soulskill
from the answers-in-the-gamma-quadrant dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Like initials carved in a tree, ER = EPR, as the new idea is known, is a shorthand that joins two ideas proposed by Einstein in 1935. One involved the paradox implied by what he called "spooky action at a distance" between quantum particles (the EPR paradox, named for its authors, Einstein, Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen). The other showed how two black holes could be connected through far reaches of space through "wormholes" (ER, for Einstein-Rosen bridges). At the time that Einstein put forth these ideas — and for most of the eight decades since — they were thought to be entirely unrelated.

But if ER = EPR is correct, the ideas aren't disconnected — they're two manifestations of the same thing. And this underlying connectedness would form the foundation of all space-time. Quantum entanglement — the action at a distance that so troubled Einstein — could be creating the "spatial connectivity" that "sews space together," according to Leonard Susskind, a physicist at Stanford University and one of the idea's main architects. Without these connections, all of space would "atomize," according to Juan Maldacena, a physicist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., who developed the idea together with Susskind. "In other words, the solid and reliable structure of space-time is due to the ghostly features of entanglement," he said. What's more, ER = EPR has the potential to address how gravity fits together with quantum mechanics.

Amazon's Profits Are Floating On a Cloud (Computing) 76

Posted by Soulskill
from the they're-hoping-the-weather-holds dept. writes: The NY Times reports that Amazon unveiled the financial performance of its powerful growth engine for the first time on Thursday, and the numbers looked good, energized primarily by renting processing power to start-ups and, increasingly, established businesses. Amazon said in its first-quarter earnings report that its cloud division, Amazon Web Services, had revenue of $1.57 billion during the first three months of the year. Even though the company often reports losses, the cloud business is generating substantial profits. The company said its operating income from AWS was $265 million.

Amazon helped popularize the field starting in 2006 and largely had commercial cloud computing to itself for years, an enormous advantage in an industry where rivals usually watch one another closely. At the moment, there is no contest: Amazon is dominant and might even be extending its lead. Microsoft ranks a distant No. 2 in cloud computing but hopes to pick up the slack with infrastructure-related services it sells through Azure, the name of its cloud service. Amazon executives have said they expect AWS to eventually rival the company's other businesses in size. The cloud business has been growing at about 40 percent a year, more than twice the rate of the overall company and many Wall Street analysts have been hoping for a spinoff.

As for Google, the cloud was barely mentioned in Google's earnings call. Nor did the search giant offer any cloud numbers, making it impossible to gauge how well it is doing. But the enthusiasm of Eric Schmidt, Google's executive chairman, was manifest when he spoke at an event for cloud software developers this week. "The entire world will be defined by smartphones, Android or Apple, a very fast network, and cloud computing," said Schmidt. "The space is very large, very vast, and no one is covering all of it."

Hubble Turns 25 43

Posted by Soulskill
from the thanks-for-all-the-desktop-wallpapers dept.
Taco Cowboy points out that the Hubble Space Telescope turns 25 today. Hubble was launched on April 24, 1990, aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery from Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Currently, it is flying about 340 miles over the Earth and circling us every 97 minutes. While the telescope itself is not really much to look at, that silver bucket is pure gold for astronomers. Scientists have used that vantage point to make ground-breaking observations about planets, stars, galaxies and to reveal parts of our universe we didn't know existed. The telescope has made more than a million observations and astronomers have used Hubble data in more than 12,700 scientific papers, "making it one of the most productive scientific instruments ever built," according to NASA. ... NASA aims to keep Hubble operating through at least 2020 so that it can overlap with its successor. The James Webb Space Telescope is due to launch in October 2018 and begin observations in mid-2019. NASA celebrated by releasing a new, epic image from Hubble titled "Celestial Fireworks." It is accompanied by an impressive flythrough video. Some nice galleries of Hubble images have been put together at the NY Times and Slate, but a bigger collection is available directly from the official Hubble website.

Cosmic Rays Could Reveal Secrets of Lightning On Earth 48

Posted by samzenpus
from the shocking-discovery dept.
sciencehabit writes: Despite Benjamin Franklin's best efforts with a kite and a key, the phenomenon of lightning remains a scientific enigma. Now, researchers have developed a new tool that could help them solve some of lightning's mysteries. By using cosmic rays, space-traveling particles that constantly rain down on our atmosphere, scientists report they can peek inside thunderstorms and measure their electric fields, helping them pinpoint the conditions that cause storms' electrical outbursts. The advance could help researchers predict more precisely when and where lightning is most likely to strike and get people out of harm's way in time.

Virtual Telescope Readied To Image Black Hole's 'Ring of Fire' 36

Posted by timothy
from the ghost-of-johnny-cash dept.
astroengine writes: With the addition of a telescope at the southern-most point of Earth, the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) now spans the diameter of our planet and, when the vast project goes online, astronomers will get their first glimpse of the bright ring surrounding a supermassive black hole. Using a method known as Very Long Baseline Interferometry, or VLBI, astronomers can combine the observing power of many telescopes situated at distant locations around the planet. The distance between those observatories, known as the "baseline," then mimics a virtual telescope of that diameter. Now, in an attempt to make direct observations of the supermassive black hole in the center of our galaxy, located at a powerful radio emission source called Sagittarius A*, the South Pole Telescope (SPT) at the National Science Foundation's Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station has been linked to the EHT and the stage is set for a historic new era of exploring the most extreme objects in the known universe. "Now that we've done VLBI with the SPT, the Event Horizon Telescope really does span the whole Earth, from the Submillimeter Telescope on Mount Graham in Arizona, to California, Hawaii, Chile, Mexico, Spain and the South Pole," said Dan Marrone of the University of Arizona. "The baselines to SPT give us two to three times more resolution than our past arrays, which is absolutely crucial to the goals of the EHT. To verify the existence of an event horizon, the 'edge' of a black hole, and more generally to test Einstein's theory of general relativity, we need a very detailed picture of a black hole. With the full EHT, we should be able to do this."

Hubble Spots Star Explosion Astronomers Can't Explain 153

Posted by samzenpus
from the what-now? dept.
schwit1 writes: The Hubble Space Telescope has spotted the explosion of a star that does not fit into any theory for stellar evolution. "The exploding star, which was seen in the constellation Eridanus, faded over two weeks — much too rapidly to qualify as a supernova. The outburst was also about ten times fainter than most supernovae, explosions that destroy some or all of a star. But it was about 100 times brighter than an ordinary nova, which is a type of surface explosion that leaves a star intact. 'The combination of properties is puzzling,' says Mario Livio, an astrophysicist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. 'I thought about a number of possibilities, but each of them fails' to account for all characteristics of the outburst, he adds." We can put this discovery on the bottom of a very long list of similar discoveries by Hubble, which this week is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its launch.
United States

House Bill Slashes Research Critical To Cybersecurity 195

Posted by samzenpus
from the do-more-with-less dept.
dcblogs writes: A U.S. House bill that will set the nation's basic research agenda for the next two years increases funding for computer science, but at the expense of other research areas. The funding bill, sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the chair of the Science, Space and Technology Committee, hikes funding for computer science, but cuts — almost by half — social sciences funding, which includes the study of human behavior. Cybersecurity uses human behavior research because humans are often the weakest security link. Research funding social, behavioral and economic sciences will fall from $272 million to $150 million, a 45% decrease. The bill also takes a big cut out of geosciences research, which includes climate change study, from $1.3 billion to $1.2 billion, an 8% decrease. The insight into human behaviors that comes from the social science research, "is critical to understanding how best to design and implement hardware and software systems that are more secure and easier to use," wrote J. Strother Moore, the Computing Research Association chair and a professor of computer science at the University of Texas.

NASA Teams Scientific Experts To Find Life On Exoplanets 58

Posted by Soulskill
from the so-we-can-steal-their-oil dept.
coondoggie writes: As the amount of newly discovered planets and systems outside our solar system grows, NASA is assembling a virtual team of scientific experts to search for signs of life. The program, Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS) will cull the collective expertise from each of NASA's science communities, including earth scientists, planetary scientists, heliophysicists, and astrophysicists. They'll work with key universities to better analyze all manner of exoplanets, as well as how the planet stars and neighbor planets interact to support life.

How False Color Astronomy Works 28

Posted by Soulskill
from the how-the-pretty-pictures-are-made dept.
StartsWithABang writes: When you look out at the nebulae in the night sky — especially if you're seeing them with your eye through a telescope for the first time — you might be in for a big surprise. These faint, fuzzy, extended objects are far dimmer, sparser and more cloud-like than almost anyone expects. Yet thanks to some incredible image processing, assigning colors to different wavelengths and adjusting the contrast, we can make out detailed structures beyond what even your aided eye could ever hope to perceive. Here's how the magic happens, and what it teaches us.

Rosetta Spacecraft Catches Comet Eruption 42

Posted by Soulskill
from the stealth-comet-fires-thrusters dept.
An anonymous reader writes: On March 12, the Rosetta spacecraft was imaging Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from a distance of 75 kilometers (46 miles) and by pure chance it spotted an eruption of dusty material from the shaded nucleus. Long-duration spacecraft are essential if we are to fully understand the evolution of a comet as it gradually heats up during its approach to the sun. And it just so happens that Rosetta is always in orbit around 67P's nucleus, ready to spot any transient event that could erupt at any time on the surface

This latest event focuses on the comet's shaded underside. It is assumed that some sunlight slowly heated an outcrop, providing enough energy to sublimate subsurface ices, ejecting vapor and dust as a jet. The transient jet was imaged and measured by Rosetta's scientific imaging system OSIRIS. There is also the possibility that a wave of heating passed through the icy material, eventually producing a more explosive jet event.

AMD Publishes New 'AMDGPU' Linux Graphics Driver 88

Posted by Soulskill
from the doing-it-right dept.
An anonymous reader writes: AMD has made available its new AMDGPU Linux graphics driver comprised of a brand new DRM/KMS kernel driver, a new xf86-video-amdgpu X11 driver, and modifications to libdrm and Gallium3D. This new AMDGPU driver is designed for supporting AMD's next-generation hardware with no support differences for currently supported Radeon GPUs. While yet to be released, this new AMDGPU driver is the critical piece to the new unified driver strategy with Catalyst where their high performance proprietary driver will now become limited to being a user-space binary component that uses this open-source kernel driver.

For High-End CPUs, Qualcomm Ditches TSMC For Samsung 27

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-fab-enough dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A report at Re/code says Qualcomm will have its next-gen Snapdragon 820 CPU made at Samsung's foundries, instead of TSMC's. The report points out a couple of good reasons for the switch: first of all, Samsung's plants run on a 14nm process, while TSMC still uses a 20nm process. Second — and more telling — Samsung recently ditched Qualcomm's Snapdragon processors for their new Galaxy S6 smartphone, opting to use their own Exynos chips instead. With the phone expected to sell upwards of 70 million units, that's a huge missed opportunity for Qualcomm. It's feasible Qualcomm could get Samsung to drop its own chips, because the Snapdragon 820 will have an onboard LTE modem. That would reduce the cost of assembling a phone, and also free up some space to make it smaller.

Mysterious "Cold Spot": Fingerprint of Largest Structure In the Universe? 94

Posted by samzenpus
from the biggest-there-is dept.
astroengine writes At the furthest-most reaches of the observable universe lies one of the most enigmatic mysteries of modern cosmology: the cosmic microwave background (CMB) Cold Spot. Discovered in 2004, this strange feature etched into the primordial echo of the Big Bang has been the focus of many hypotheses — could it be the presence of another universe? Or is it just instrumental error? Now, astronomers may have acquired strong evidence as to the Cold Spot's origin and, perhaps unsurprisingly, no multiverse hypothesis is required. But it's not instrumental error either. It could be a vast "supervoid" around 1.8 billion light-years wide that is altering the characteristics of the CMB radiation traveling through it.

Astronaut Snaps Epic Star Trek Selfie In Space 143

Posted by samzenpus
from the zero-g-cosplay dept.
mpicpp writes with this story about astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti's tribute to a Star Trek icon. "Captain Kathryn Janeway led the USS Voyager through many harrowing lost-in-space adventures. She was the first female Starfleet captain to take the lead role in a 'Trek' series. Janeway is fictional, but she is an inspiration to many women interested in space. European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, the first Italian woman in space, took a moment to celebrate Captain Janeway at around 250 miles above Earth. Cristoforetti is currently aboard the International Space Station. She tweeted a selfie on April 17 while dressed in a Star Trek: Voyager-style red and black uniform with a purple turtleneck. The image shows her pointing a thumb at SpaceX's Dragon supply capsule."

ISS Could Be Fitted With Lasers To Shoot Down Space Junk 167

Posted by samzenpus
from the point-and-shoot dept.
An anonymous reader writes Japan's Riken research institute has suggested a new idea for dealing with space junk. They say a fiber optic laser mounted onto the International Space Station could blast debris out of the sky. From the article: "To combat the increasingly dense layer of dead satellites and miscellaneous space debris that are enshrouding our planet, no idea — nets, lassos, even ballistic gas clouds — seems too far-fetched to avoid. Now, an international team of researchers led by Japan's Riken research institute has put forward what may be the most ambitious plan to date. They propose blasting an estimated 3,000 tons of space junk out of orbit with a fiber optic laser mounted on the International Space Station."

Rocket Lab Unveils "Electric" Rocket Engine 75

Posted by timothy
from the partially-electric-is-still-cool dept.
New submitter Adrian Harvey writes The New Zealand based commercial space company Rocket Lab has unveiled their new rocket engine which the media is describing as battery-powered. It still uses rocket fuel, of course, but has an entirely new propulsion cycle which uses electric motors to drive its turbopumps.

To add to the interest over the design, it uses 3D printing for all its primary components. First launch is expected this year, with commercial operations commencing in 2016.

The Origin of the First Light In the Universe 133

Posted by timothy
from the was-just-born-there dept.
StartsWithABang writes Before there were planets, galaxies, or even stars in the Universe, there really was light. We see that light, left over today, in the form of the Cosmic Microwave Background, or the remnant glow from the Big Bang. But these photons outnumber the matter in our Universe by more than a-billion-to-one, and are the most numerous thing around. So where did they first come from? Science has the answer.

Incorrectly Built SLS Welding Machine To Be Rebuilt 150

Posted by timothy
from the but-in-a-crash-you'd-be-totally-safe dept.
schwit1 writes A giant welding machine, built for NASA's multi-billion dollar Space Launch System (SLS), has to be taken apart and rebuilt because the contractor failed to reinforce the floor, as required, prior to construction: "Sweden's ESAB Welding & Cutting, which has its North American headquarters in Florence, South Carolina, built the the roughly 50-meter tall Vertical Assembly Center as a subcontractor to SLS contractor Boeing at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.

ESAB was supposed to reinforce Michoud's floor before installing the welding tool, but did not, NASA SLS Program Manager Todd May told SpaceNews after an April 15 panel session during the 31st Space Symposium here. As a result, the enormous machine leaned ever so slightly, cocking the rails that guide massive rings used to lift parts of the 8.4-meter-diameter SLS stages The rings wound up 0.06 degrees out of alignment, which may not sound like much, "but when you're talking about something that's 217 feet [66.14 meters] tall, that adds up," May said.

Asked why ESAB did not reinforce the foundation as it was supposed to, May said only it was a result of "a miscommunication between two [Boeing] subcontractors and ESAB."

It is baffling how everyone at NASA, Boeing, and ESAB could have forgotten to do the reinforcing, even though it was specified in the contract. It also suggests that the quality control in the SLS rocket program has some serious problems.