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Dual asteroid strike hints at chaos in the inner solar system

New Scientist - news - Wed, 2015-06-17 16:30
A pair of unrelated asteroids. That's not supposed to happen. What on earth skewed their orbits, and plunged us into ice age?

Categories: Science news

My #distractinglysexy hashtag is not to blame for Tim Hunt’s resignation | Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

Guardian Science - Wed, 2015-06-17 16:19

Until women are given more of a voice and power in traditional organisations, calling out sexism on social media often remains our only recourse

Last week I started the hashtag #distractinglysexy, in response to Nobel prizewinning scientist Tim Hunt’s ill-advised comments about men falling in love with over-emotional women in laboratories. Despite claims that the response to Hunt’s comments constituted an online “march of the feminist bullies”, no one who was part of this humorous attempt to highlight the varied and complex work of female scientists called for Hunt’s resignation or hounded him online, but that was the way it was framed.

Related: Tim Hunt shouldn't resign. He should lead the way against sexism in science | Van Badham

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Homosexuality 'not un-African': report undermines anti-gay laws

New Scientist - news - Wed, 2015-06-17 15:59
In a move that gives hope to Africa's LGBT community, a leading academic group has published a report on human sexual diversity that criticises discrimination

Categories: Science news

Jack King obituary

Guardian Science - Wed, 2015-06-17 15:07
Nasa PR chief recognisable to millions as the voice of America’s space programme

Just before 9.30am Florida time, on 16 July 1969, Jack King confirmed his place in media history by describing technology in action, and transfixing audiences around the planet. “Two minutes and 10 seconds and counting,” he said, in his flat, laconic, Bostonian tones. “The target for the Apollo 11 astronauts, the Moon … Third stage completely pressurised,” he went on. “Second stage tanks are now pressurised … all engines running.”

“We have a liftoff, 32 minutes past the hour. Liftoff on Apollo 11. Tower cleared.” Thus did a calm King, at the centre of a global media clamour, count down as the Saturn V rocket blasted Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins off into their lunar epic.

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Our dream scenario for Philae – and mission finale for Rosetta

New Scientist - news - Wed, 2015-06-17 15:00
Cinzia Fantinati of the European Space Agency explains how they will get Philae to do science, and how the Rosetta mothership will end its mission

Categories: Science news

Satellite eye on Earth: May 2015 – in pictures

Guardian Science - Wed, 2015-06-17 13:58

Storms in Australia, wildfires in North Korea and the effects of record high temperatures in Alaska are among the images captured by European Space Agency and Nasa satellites last month

The east coast of Australia was hit by a severe storm and flooding on 1 May reports. South-east Queensland had14 inches of rain in three hours, causing flash floods that formed distinct river plumes along the coastline. Seen in the image above is a plume from the Brisbane river entering Moreton Bay.

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Science vine: how do solar panels work?

Guardian Science - Wed, 2015-06-17 13:47

Over the next few months we’ll be breaking down scientific concepts into six-second vines at #guardianscienceinsix. This week we look at photovoltaic cells. But can you do better?

Solar panels have long been a feature of the quest for renewable energy, and as such feel like a very modern technology indeed. However, their origins go back to 1839, when French physicist Edmund Bequerel first discovered that certain materials would produce small amounts of electric current when exposed to light - the photoelectric effect.

Albert Einstein provided the real breakthrough for modern photovoltaic technology in 1905, when he described the nature of light and used this to explain the nature of the photoelectric effect, for which he later won a Nobel prize. It took some time from that discovery to the production of the first photovoltaic module in 1954, but by the 60s engineers started to make use of the technology to provide power for spacecraft, and through use in space programmes around the world the technology progressed to being a potential source for domestic energy.

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NASA plans first interplanetary CubeSat mission for Mars lander

New Scientist - news - Wed, 2015-06-17 13:30
CubeSats promise cheap, easy access to low-Earth orbit, but none has ever gone to deep space. That's about to change with a mission called Mars Cube One

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Quitting EU would harm British science, says Royal Society's next president

Guardian Science - Wed, 2015-06-17 13:00

Sir Venkatraman Ramakrishnan warns Brexit would lead to cut in research funding and fall in collaborations

Leaving the European Union would be detrimental to British science, hitting research funding and cutting the UK off from a pool of talented scientists and world-class facilities, the incoming president of the Royal Society has told the Guardian.

In his first interview since his election was confirmed in March, Sir Venkatraman Ramakrishnan weighed into the increasingly heated debate over EU membership, warning withdrawal would “really narrow down our science”.

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Rosetta space orbiter to be moved closer to Philae lander comet

Guardian Science - Wed, 2015-06-17 11:43

Mission will improve contact between orbiter and Philae lander after agency says data already received is ‘amazingly exciting’

The Rosetta space orbiter is to be moved closer to the comet hosting the pioneering Philae lander to establish a better with link the probe after it sent back signals last weekend, the European Space Agency has announced.

In a briefing on the mission at the Paris air show, the agency confirmed there had been no contact with the solar-powered probe since its surprise reactivation over the weekend when it signalled to its orbiting mothership Rosetta.

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Philae probe: Rosetta scientists says lander's material is 'amazingly exciting'

Guardian Science - Wed, 2015-06-17 10:03

European Space Agency scientists say no further contact has been made with the Philae probe since it ‘woke up’ to send messages from a comet

10.00am BST

The briefing is wound up by a spokesman for the agency, who says: “Expect the unexpected.”

That’s it for now. There’ll be a story soon.

9.58am BST

Bibring says the agency may decide to rotate the lander by a few degrees. But a decision will come later as the operation is so risky. First the scientists will try to analyse the data they have obtained already.

Gaudon points out that the lander was rotated by around 20 degrees in November.

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Brian Cox questions UCL's reaction to Tim Hunt's comments – audio

Guardian Science - Wed, 2015-06-17 09:05
Scientist and broadcaster Brian Cox discusses Nobel prize-winning scientist Tim Hunt on BBC Radio 4's World at One programme on Tuesday. Cox says Hunt's comments about women working in laboratories were ill-advised, but questioned the decision by University College London to force Hunt to resign. Cox also points to a 'wider problem of trial by social media'

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Brexit and science: let's not make the same mistake as the Swiss

Guardian Science - Wed, 2015-06-17 08:30

Guest post: Why walking away from the EU will leave UK science in difficult negotiation territory

In late January 2014, the contract between Switzerland and the EU sat on desks, ready to sign. Switzerland was due to become an associated country on the EU’s new seven-year, €80 billion science programme, called “Horizon 2020”. Although not an EU country, Switzerland would contribute appropriate levels of money, thereby allowing its university scientists and small innovative businesses to compete for the pooled research and innovation funds in exactly the same way scientists in EU member states do.

The science programme had already launched, but the Commission would not sign just yet. They were waiting. There was a referendum coming up in Switzerland that was a direct challenge to the standing bilateral agreements with the EU. The proposal, named “against mass immigration” and championed by the Swiss People’s Party, aimed to limit immigration through quotas and permit allocation of jobs preferentially to Swiss over foreigners, effectively returning Switzerland to the days before its freedom-of-movement agreements with the EU.

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The Geneva Protocol at 90: An Anchor for Arms Control?

Guardian Science - Wed, 2015-06-17 08:07

On the 90th birthday of the Geneva Protocol, Alex Spelling, Brian Balmer and Caitriona McLeish reflect on a crucial chapter in the prohibition of chemical and biological weapons

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the use of lethal chemical weapons (CW) in World War One. Perhaps less well known is that June 17 2015 is the 90th anniversary of the piece of legislation which sought to prohibit such an occurrence ever happening again: the 1925 Geneva Protocol. This treaty is now firmly established in international law, governing both signatories and non-signatories. It is not a perfect instrument. Lacking enforcement machinery, the value of the Protocol lies in its moral and practical commitments towards regulating norms of behaviour and rules of engagement. And it has evolved throughout its history. The outcry over the alleged use of CW in Syria in recent years demonstrates the continued revulsion against these weapons and relevance of prohibiting them.

The ninety year old Protocol is also a crucial anchor for much of the subsequent effort to enact this prohibition. The treaty marked an important milestone in establishing a multilateral consensus on the conduct of warfare and the promotion of greater morality and stability in international affairs. Today 137 nations have ratified the agreement. During the 1980s allegations of CW use in conflicts and concern at the lack of investigative machinery in the Protocol led to the United Nations (UN) Secretary General’s Mechanism being developed. Authority was granted to carry out investigations into allegations of chemical and biological warfare, as prohibited by the Protocol, which could be triggered by a request from any Member State. One such recent investigation was made into the alleged use of CW in the Ghouta area of Damascus on 21 August 2013.

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Tim Hunt's findings in lab disproved as stress expert says men cry more at work

Guardian Science - Wed, 2015-06-17 08:00

Contrary to Nobel laureate’s remark, quickly defended by London mayor Boris Johnson, Prof Ad Vingerhoets says his study found women wept less at work

He was cited by Boris Johnson as the world’s leading expert on crying, whose evidence supports the claim that female scientists were more likely to weep at work than their male colleagues.

But Prof Ad Vingerhoets has told the Guardian that his only comprehensive and completed study of crying in a work environment showed that men were more likely to break down.

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Dara Ó Briain Meets Stephen Hawking review – impossible not to feel a fanboy’s sheer joy

Guardian Science - Wed, 2015-06-17 07:00

The comedian’s encounter with the legendary physicist could have done with more actual science in it – but Ó Briain’s enthusiasm just about saves the day

This week’s Radio Times splashed the documentary Dara Ó Briain Meets Stephen Hawking (BBC1) on its cover, promising “The Real Stephen Hawking”, and illustrating it with a picture of handsome young Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne playing the character of Stephen Hawking in a film. While I admit that my scientific knowledge is largely limited to a combination of the Radiolab podcast and the Facebook page I Fucking Love Science, that decision does not seem entirely logical. But it is a problem this profile also has to deal with. While it is supposed to be an intimate portrait of one of the world’s finest minds, it appears predicated on a new surge of interest in the man after the recent biopic The Theory of Everything, and as such it occasionally comes across as an extended DVD extra, although there are plenty of moments when it hints at more.

Ó Briain immediately sets out his stall as a physics fanboy. The comedian and presenter, who studied mathematics and theoretical physics at University College Dublin, recalls asking his parents for a copy of A Brief History of Time for Christmas, and says throughout that he is fulfilling a boyhood dream by meeting his hero. He’s an excellent choice of host, asking difficult questions despite his clear reverence for his subject, and it is impossible not to feel the contagion of his sheer pleasure in finding himself in such a situation. More intriguingly, Ó Briain is honest about the process of interviewing a man with motor neurone disease. He says he is not sure how easy it will be to talk to Hawking, who lost his speech in the 1980s and produces, via facial muscles which activate his voice machine, an average of one word per minute.

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Science is back! To help educate quolls about cane toads. With sausages | First Dog on the Moon

Guardian Science - Wed, 2015-06-17 05:32

In the epic battle between cane toads and native northern quolls, science may just have given the quolls a fighting chance for a comeback

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Bees are worth billions to farmers across the globe, study suggests

Guardian Science - Wed, 2015-06-17 04:44

Pollination by wild bees contributes an average $3,251 per hectare per year to crop production, researchers find

Wild bees provide crop pollination services worth more than $3,250 per hectare per year, a study reported on Tuesday.

Their value to the food system is “in the billions, globally,” its authors wrote in the journal Nature Communications.

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Diseased fish confirm damage to Great Barrier Reef ecosystem, say scientists

Guardian Science - Wed, 2015-06-17 03:53

New research into reef confirms sediment from coastal agriculture and industry development, such as the dredging for ports, is having an adverse effect on fish

The kind of muddy waters often seen around the Great Barrier Reef increase disease rates in fish and damage their gills, according to reef scientists.

A new study by James Cook University researchers simulated the levels of suspended sediment “frequently found” in the reef due to floods, coastal agriculture and industry, and dredging for ports.

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Chances of IVF success 'futile' for women over 44, says study

Guardian Science - Wed, 2015-06-17 00:46

Twelve-year project advises donor eggs be recommended to women in mid-40s but says steep decline in birth rates could be avoided by freezing eggs before 35

Women should be advised to have IVF with donor eggs instead of their own when they reach the age of 44 to boost their chances of success, fertility doctors have said.

Researchers in Spain found that the chances of women having a baby through IVF was only 1.3% in those aged 44 and above, but stood at 24% in those aged 38 to 39.

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