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Autonomous flying taxi is coming

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Cheddar Man: DNA shows early Briton had dark skin

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Falcon Heavy Take Off

Falcon Heavy lifts off!

It is the most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two. With the ability to lift into orbit nearly 64 metric tons (141,000 lb)—a mass greater than a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage and fuel–Falcon Heavy can lift more than twice the payload of the next closest operational vehicle, the Delta IV Heavy, at one-third the cost. Falcon Heavy draws upon the proven heritage and reliability of Falcon 9. Its first stage is composed of three Falcon 9 nine-engine cores whose 27 Merlin engines together generate more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, equal to approximately eighteen 747 aircraft. Only the Saturn V moon rocket, last flown in 1973, delivered more payload to orbit. Falcon Heavy was designed from the outset to carry humans into space and restores the possibility of flying missions with crew to the Moon or Mars.

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The Most Beautiful Experiment in Biology

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This Dizzying Galaxy Supercluster Will Change Your Perspective on The Cosmos

Astronomers have discovered a massive supercluster of galaxies located approximately 4 billion light-years from Earth – and not only is it one of the largest known structures in the cosmos, it’s also the most distant supercluster we’ve ever observed.

See, in space, everything is a question of perspective. From where you sit, the planet you’re reading this on may seem like a pretty big deal, but it’s only a tiny overall part of our Solar System, which in turn is basically an almost insignificant speck making up our galaxy, the Milky Way.

But we can still go bigger. Galaxies themselves are subsumed into larger stacks called galaxy groups and clusters – and then there are superclusters: unimaginably vast cosmic aggregations that collect galaxy clusters like a handful of spare change.

It’s one of these handfuls that a team of astronomers in India has now identified, locating a previously unknown dense supercluster that they’ve named after the ancient Sarasvati River.

The Saraswati supercluster, discovered by researchers from the Inter University Centre for Astronomy & Astrophysics (IUCAA), spans an epic swathe of space measuring some 600 million light-years across – in which, the team estimates, lies the equivalent combined mass of over 20 million billion Suns. Source: ScienceAlert

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Gallery denies censorship after removing Victorian nymphs painting

A gallery has temporarily removed a Victorian painting of naked adolescent girls in a move to “encourage debate” about how such images should be displayed in the modern age.

Manchester Art Gallery has taken down Hylas and the Nymphs by JW Waterhouse.

Curator Clare Gannaway said there were “tricky issues about gender, race and representation” in the gallery. “But we want to talk about that with people.”

She denied accusations that the gallery was censoring the 1896 picture.

The decision has already sparked a heated reaction, however, with many on social media accusing the gallery of being puritanical and too politically correct. Source: BBC


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Your Amazing Molecular Machines

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Modern humans left Africa much earlier

Researchers have identified the remains of the earliest known modern humans to have left Africa. New dating of fossils from Israel indicates that our species (Homo sapiens) lived outside Africa around 185,000 years ago, some 80,000 years earlier than the previous evidence. Details appear in the journal Science.

The co-lead researcher, Prof Israel Hershkovitz, told BBC News that the discovery would fundamentally alter ideas of recent human evolution.

“We have to rewrite the whole story of human evolution, not just for our own species but all the other species that lived outside of Africa at the time,” the researcher, from Tel Aviv University, explained.

Prof Chris Stringer of London’s Natural History Museum, who was not involved in the study, said: “The find breaks the long-established 130,000-year-old limit on modern humans outside of Africa.

“The new dating hints that there could be even older Homo sapiens finds to come from the region of western Asia.”

The new scientific dating evidence raises the possibility that modern humans interacted with other, now extinct, species of humans for tens of thousands of years. It also fits in with recent discoveries of remains and genetic studies that also indicate an earlier departure from Africa. Source: BBC

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Induced Current Spin-Up


Spinning magnets from the magnetic stirrer induce electric currents to flow in the brass PhiTOP- these currents then create their own magnetic field which opposes the magnets underneath and pushes the PhiTOP to spin. Credit to astrophysicist Kenneth Brecher, the creator of the PhiTOP and this unique means of using Lenz’s Law to spin it up. This top stands up vertically (when spun with sufficient rotational velocity) due to physics similar to that of the tippe-top. The concave lens keeps the top from wandering off of magnetic stirrer. Source: Interesting Facts

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Sultan the Pit Pony

Sultan the Pit Pony, a modern raised-earth sculpture in Caerphilly, Wales. The pony sculpture, affectionately nicknamed ‘Sultan’ after a well-loved pit pony from the local mines, is more than 200m long. Built out of coal shale from those mines, it is a reminder of an industrial past that changed Britain, and the world, forever. Coal was the fuel of the Industrial Revolution; coal-powered steam engines put Britain ahead of the world for more than a hundred years in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The steam engines were probably one of Britain’s greatest contributions to human history. Picture: Jonathan Webb

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Barriers to EV adoption

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Who was Alexander Hamilton?

A close-up of the front of the US 10-dollar bill bearing the portrait of Alexander Hamilton

Alexander who? Until very recently, it was a question that even citizens of the United States might have asked. Yes, Alexander Hamilton was one of the founding fathers of the nation, but he was – let’s be frank – a bit of a B-lister, at least compared to the headlining names of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. In fact, just a few years ago, the US government was all set to boot Hamilton from his place on the $10 bill. Who, after all, cared?

But now, everyone cares. Hamilton is the name on people’s lips around the world. The B-lister has become the breakout star of America’s origin story. His sudden tsunami of popularity has even made the Treasury reverse their decision and keep him on the bank note.

It’s all down to the monster success of Broadway musical Hamilton, which is about to hit these shores. It’s a show which, on the face of it, makes no sense. A musical featuring a cast largely made up of people of colour, set to a soundtrack of hip-hop and R ‘n’ B, which tells the story of a group of white men forging a nation in the time of slavery?

But when you delve into the life of Hamilton – the real man, rather than the generically lordly figure of oil paintings and history books – it starts making sense. Hamilton was an immigrant and an underdog. He was a fighter, both literally and metaphorically. He was an orphan with little privilege to fall back on, who had nothing going for him except fierce intellect and a will to survive.

Born out of wedlock on an island in the Caribbean, the product of an illicit fling by a Scottish businessman who later abandoned him and his mother, Hamilton was later dubbed “the bastard brat of a Scottish peddler” by none other than John Adams, the second President of the United States.

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Awesome Machines

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‘Serious gap’ in cosmic expansion rate hints at new physics

A mathematical discrepancy in the expansion rate of the Universe is now “pretty serious”, and could point the way to a major discovery in physics, says a Nobel laureate.

The most recent results suggest the inconsistency is not going away.

Prof Adam Riess told BBC News that an unknown phenomenon, such as a new particle, might explain the deviation.

The difference is found when comparing precise measurements of the rate obtained in different ways.

However, the statistics are not yet at the threshold for claiming a discovery,

Prof Riess, who is based at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, was one of three scientists who shared the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics for discovering that the expansion rate of the Universe is accelerating.

This phenomenon was widely attributed to a mysterious, unexplained “dark energy” filling the cosmos. Source BBC

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The Evolution of Synergy

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Thomas Becket

Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered  on this day in 1170. This alabaster panel shows Becket kneeling before an altar with four knights approaching from behind – two of them are about to attack him with swords. The figure with the cross behind the altar represents Edward Grim, a clerk from Cambridge who witnessed the atrocity. The murder was committed in a side chapel of Canterbury Cathedral, the knights acting on a misunderstood instruction from King Henry II who was in dispute with Becket over the relative privileges of Church and Crown.

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Ice cubes in Antarctica

The winner of the Royal Society’s annual photo competition was taken over the Antarctic Peninsula in 1995 and recently digitised by the British Antarctic Survey. It shows a most unusual ice formation (plane for scale) with regular crevasses bisecting the ice in two directions at roughly right angles to each other. While attributed by the BAS to stretching in two directions over a topographic rise under the ice sheet other researchers add that the ice might be fast flowing and floating and spreading outwards in both directions thinning while it does so.

The first set of cracks appear parallel to the ice’s forward movement, while the second perpendicular set comes later in the spreading process. In this case, the set parallel to the wings is older, with gentler edges and filled with more snow, while those parallel to the fuselage are the younger set. Either way, this is one of nature’s incredible patterns reflecting the awesome forces at play when such huge masses of frozen water gently slide off a continent. Via Earth Story

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How to build a Cruise Ship in less than 10 minutes

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We Could Solve Drug Resistance by Getting Microbes to Fight Each Other

Scientists are in a battle to develop treatments faster than viruses develop barriers against them, but new research suggests putting pathogens at war with each other could be an effective way of countering existing drug resistance, as well as preventing it in the future.

In a study of mice infected with malaria, researchers combined traditional drug remedies with a manipulated version of a nutrient that the malaria parasites rely on.

Importantly, the resistant strain needed more of this particular nutrient than the drug-sensitive pathogen – so the pathogens that could ignore antibiotics ended up more hungry.

By restricting the nutrient supply, the team of researchers forced the drug-resistant parasites and the drug-sensitive parasites into competition with each other, eventually wiping out the infection.

“By taking advantage of competition between parasites inside a host, we managed to use an existing drug to successfully treat an infection, even when drug-resistant parasites were already there,” says biologist and lead researcher Nina Wale, now at the University of Michigan.

Drug resistance happens because pathogens, from bacteria to parasites, develop genetic mutations that shield them against treatment. Once that mutated pathogen survives, it can quickly replicate, rendering existing drugs ineffective. Via ScienceAlert

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Tycho Brahe

Born on this day in 1546 in Knudstrup, Denmark, astronomer Tycho Brahe produced incredibly detailed astronomical tables. As a child he was abducted by his wealthy uncle, who raised Brahe at his castle. Brahe studied law at the University of Copenhagen, but his conversion to astronomer began when he witnessed a total solar eclipse in 1560. Three years later Brahe observed a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn and found that existing astronomical tables were inaccurate. He set out to make regular, accurate observations of the heavens. He obtained quadrants and other instruments (the telescope had not yet been invented) to establish his own observatory. In 1572 he observed what he considered a new star in the sky—unthinkable at the time, when the stars were thought to be static. (In reality, Brahe’s star was actually the explosion of one: a supernova.) Brahe built his grand Uraniborg Observatory on the island of Ven. He measured the positions of hundreds of stars and concluded that the planets orbited the Sun, which in turn orbited Earth. His star pupil was Johannes Kepler, who after Brahe’s death would use his mentor’s observations to devise his famous laws of planetary motion.

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