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How Hot Was Summer 2014?

Scientific American News - 2 hours 11 min ago
Despite a noticeably cool month across much of the U.S., the answer may surprise you

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The Week In Numbers: Hovercycles, Ashy Moon Smells, And A Disappearing Louisiana Coast

Popular Science News - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 17:00

The Drone 3 In Flight I bet this would've caught Luke Skywalker on Endor. Malloy Aeronautics 15.4: combined weight in pounds of this robot riding a hovercycle.

-268: temperature in degrees Celsius of liquid helium when it is used in MRI machines and particle accelerators. Below that, liquid helium starts to demonstrate weird quantum effects.

8 million: the amount of money, in dollars, in a U.K. emergency fund, intended to bankroll Ebola research to help the current outbreak.

Researchers Investigate an Ebola Outbreak in Uganda in 2012 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

3,800: the speed in miles per hour the Army wants their advanced hypersonic missile to go. However, this goal may be further away than expected; during a weapons test, one of their experimental rockets exploded after liftoff.

56: percentage of fruits and vegetables grown for consumption that are actually consumed, worldwide. That’s compared to 44 percent of produce lost.

Food waste, by production stage and food type Click to see larger image. Katie Peek

43: percentage of oxygen in rock and soil on the Moon. Scientist Larry Taylor says that unsatisfied dangling bonds from oxygen in the lunar soil account for the Moon's ashy, gunpowder smell.

2: the number of hours Time Warner’s major Internet outage lasted early Wednesday morning. We spoke with a computer scientist to figure out what may have caused the issue.

761.2: the speed of sound in miles per hour at sea level. China is developing a supersonic submarine that may be able to travel at such a speed.

Supercavitating Submarine South China Morning Post

$25 to $1,250: price range (in real money) for purchasing virtual ships in the crowdfunded video game Star Citizen, which promises to be the most realistic spaceflight game yet.

48.1 million: Amount of money total that 498,500 players have spent on virtual ships in Star Citizen. These gamers are excited.

111: Number of juvenile Polypterus senegalus fish trained to walk on land for nearly a year. The idea was for researchers to better understand evolutionary processes that occurred 400 million years ago.

2,000: square miles of southeastern Louisiana that has disappeared into the Gulf of Mexico over the past eight decades.

The Week In Drones: Google Delivery, Reaper Gods, And More

Popular Science News - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 16:00

Pumpkin King Scarecrow Imagine how much scarier this would be with a drone controlling it. SolarSurfer via Wikimedia Commons

Here's a roundup of the week's top drone news: the military, commercial, non-profit, and recreational applications of unmanned aircraft.

Drone Pilots Puppet

Disney, whose theme parks are known for their animatronic robots, recently filed a patent for “Aerial Display System With Marionettes Articulated and Supported by Airborne Devices.” The puppet is suspended from a six-rotor hexacopter drone. In addition to moving with the drone as it flies, three arms below the drone manipulate the puppet like a human puppeteer would. It’d make an ideal addition to the Haunted Mansion. 

Insurgents Drone Back

Drones made their name in wars against insurgent forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan, where long flight times and powerful cameras let conventional militaries find small bands of fighters. Now, the violent terror group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has a drone, and used it to scout out an attack against an airbase in Syria. The drone appears to be a commercial DJI Phantom, with a good camera. The aerial footage provided by the drone allowed the group to find weak points before attacking. 

USDA Wants A Robot Farmer

The Department of Agriculture posted a solicitation for a drone for “low-altitude imaging of crops.” The solicitation specifies that the drone be at least as good as a DJI S1000, can hover, carry over four pounds, fly for at least 15 minutes, and gimbal-mount a camera underneath. Agriculture is one of the low-hanging fruits of drone development, with winemakers using them to find ripe grapes and Minnesota farmers explorer the potential of cheap field photography. 

The Church Of The Flying Robot Metaphor

Pastor Ed Young heads Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas. For a sermon series on the all-knowing and all-powerful God, he’s seized on a strangely modern metaphor: drones. As noted by Vox, drones are neither omnipresent nor omnipotent, so perhaps it’s not exactly the best metaphor for a strictly defined Abrahamic deity. Watch a trailer for his lecture series below:

Drone Delivery In Australia

In the works for two years, Project Wing by Google X is a drone delivery system which has now been tested in rural Australia. Key to the system is a vertical-takeoff drone that flies like a plane. From our story on Project Wing:

The drone is a tail-sitter, taking off vertically with its body perpendicular to the ground. At rest, it looks like a tiny spaceship from a 1930s comic book. It’s a type of Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) rarely done with humans on board, because that transition, from vertical to horizontal and back again, is difficult for onboard human pilots to manage. For the drone it works fine, and the design lets the wing fly fast like a plane. It also means the drone can hover, and that’s where the delivery mechanism of Project Wing shines.

Project Wing Drone Google

Reno Reaps Rewards from the Drone Economy

Ashima Devices makes a strange-looking drone. Dubbed the “hexpuck,” it is six small rotors contained within a larger disk, looking as much like the magazine in a revolver as an aircraft. They have different versions for police, law enforcement, security, and marine needs. To further their business, the company announced this week that it’s moving its headquarters to Reno. Nevada, one of six test sites for drones selected by the FAA, became operational in June. Ashima’s move is expected to bring 400 jobs to the town, and hints at the economic potential of the drone industry for places that embrace it.

Hoverbike Harbinger

Malloy Aeronautics, a helicopter company founded in Australia and transplanted to England, wants to make a helicopter for people as nimble as a motorcycle in the sky. To fund it, they first developed a remote control drone version that’s one-third the size. Here’s how we reported the bike:

Malloy Aeronautics’s first hoverbike used two large ducted fans for lift, something it had in common with other hoverbike designs. The new version, as seen in Drone 3, is instead a quadcopter, using four rotors in a sleeker, more balanced fashion. The fans partially overlap, and the whole drone can fold up to fit within a special backpack carrying case. Drone 3 is remotely piloted, but the hoverbikes it finances will fly both manned and unmanned.

Did I miss any drone news? Email me at

Nautical Chimeras, Exploding Rockets, And Other Amazing Images Of The Week

Popular Science News - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 15:20

Stunning Stinger The Portuguese man o' war is named after an 18th century warship. The creature may look like one organism, but it is actually a siphonophore -- a colony made up of different individual animals. That means each of its organs is composed of genetically distinct cells. National Geographic has more on the insane biology of these venomous creatures, as well as a collection of gorgeous photos. Aaron Ansarov

Ebola Drug Saves Infected Monkeys

Scientific American News - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 14:40
ZMapp is the first treatment to completely protect animals after they show symptoms of disease

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Book Review: <em>The Marshmallow Test</em>

Scientific American News - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 13:00
Books and recommendations from Scientific American

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Exotic particles with four or more quarks

Physics Today News - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 12:19

The familiar denizens of the particle zoo are made of two or three quarks, but particle theory allows for states comprising any number of those fundamental particles. Finally, after decades of searching, tetraquarks seem to have been spotted.

A new era of nuclear test verification

Physics Today News - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 12:19

The global network of sensors commissioned to monitor compliance with the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty has proven capable of that task and more.

White House offers encouragement for cyberphysical systems

Physics Today News - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 12:18

SmartAmerica Challenge catalyzes two dozen projects that add further functionality to the Internet of Things.

Report urges more planning to cope with Fukushima-like event

Physics Today News - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 12:18

Industry and the NRC maintain that US reactor safety has greatly improved in the three years since Japan’s nuclear catastrophe.

Dimitri Manuel Mihalas

Physics Today News - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 12:18
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