The Falcon Heavy has a launch date, and this time it seems real

Thursday night, SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted that the Falcon Heavy rocket would make its maiden launch in November from Launch Complex-39A in Florida. Although this event has been long promised by the company, with real hardware being tested and moved across the country, this date finally feels real.

Musk has recently attempted to set expectations for the maiden launch, which will carry a dummy payload because the rocket is so experimental. “I encourage people to come down to the Cape to see the first Falcon Heavy mission,” Musk said earlier this month during a talk at the International Space Station Research & Development Conference. “It’s guaranteed to be exciting.”

The Falcon Heavy is powered by a modified Falcon 9 rocket as its center core, with two Falcon 9 first stages as side boosters. To work, its 27 orbital-class engines must ignite simultaneously, and SpaceX has been conducting tests on the ground. But the challenges don’t end there. The company isn’t sure about the airflow around the rocket as it goes through the sound barrier, nor how it will handle loads at MaxQ, when the vehicle is under maximum dynamic pressure.

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A brief history of quantum alternatives

In 1915, Albert Einstein, with a ee pittle help from his friends, developed a theory of gravity that overturned what we’d thought were the very foundations of physical reality. The idea that the space that we inhabit was not perfectly described by Euclidean geometry had been inconceivable—so much so that the philosopher Immanuel Kant, a radical thinker in so many ways, proclaimed that it was not possible for any theory of physics to dispense with it.

The physicist Werner Heisenberg later pointed out the implications of Kant’s mistake. The great philosopher had posited that our intuitions about the ancient geometry of Euclid meant that it was the necessary foundation for physical reality. The fact that this turned out to be false called the integrity of Kant’s entire philosophical edifice into question.

Despite their radical break with past ideas of space and time, Einstein’s theories would soon end up lumped in with Newton’s as part of “classical physics.” We needed to do so because there was a revolution in scientific thought so profound that it created a bright line in the history of science: the development of quantum physics.

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Specific area of the brain helps keep the body young

Age may not be a state of mind, but the brain is definitely involved. That’s the conclusion of a study published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, which provides compelling evidence that a specific structure in the brain, called the hypothalamus, plays a significant role in controlling the entire body’s aging. The results suggest stem cells play a critical role, but only in part via their ability to generate new neurons.

The results come from researchers at the Bronx’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine. They, along with several other labs, have generated evidence that suggested the hypothalamus played a key role in aging. That makes a certain amount of sense: aging is a systemic process, and the hypothalamus contains structures like the pituitary that release hormones that influence the entire body. And there’s already been some indications that factors that control the dynamics of aging end up circulating through the blood.

Aging and stem cells

But what controls the timing of aging? One intriguing possibility is that neural stem cells are involved. These stem cells continue to divide and produce new neurons even after the brain is fully developed, but their numbers appear to go down over time (possibly because more of them produce new neurons than are replaced by cell divisions). If the key factors are produced by neural stem cells, then their levels should go down over time, allowing aging to proceed.

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As dominance of launch market looms, SpaceX now valued at $21 billion

After two serious accidents in 2015 and 2016, SpaceX has been on a tear in 2017 with 10 successful launches, including the historic re-flight of two used boosters and a used Dragon spacecraft. These achievements suggest the company is well on its way toward developing low-cost, reusable boosters, and therefore the rocket company founded by Elon Musk may be on the cusp of capturing much of the global launch market.

A new valuation appears to back up this optimism. According to the New York Times, SpaceX recently raised $350 million in additional funding, and during this process the company was valued at $21 billion. This represents a significant increase from 2015, when Google and Fidelity invested $1 billion in SpaceX, valuing the company at $12 billion.

The new report notes that the updated value of SpaceX places the company in rarefied air, as just six other venture-backed companies are valued at $20 billion or more around the world. These companies include US-based companies Uber, Airbnb, Palantir, and WeWork, as well as Chinese firms Didi Chuxing and Xiaomi.

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Tiny pillars put light and sound in a quantum superposition

In recent years, there has been a lot of interest in coupling sound and light together. Admittedly, we’ve been doing this for a long time, but we’ve always been limited in terms of what we can do with how nature puts materials together. Now, with our ability to construct structures that are the right size, we can make devices that really dance to the tune that we give them.

This control has been demonstrated in a very cute way recently. Researchers have put together micro pillars that convert light into long-lasting, very high-frequency sound waves.

Nature leads the way

Nature, of course, allows sound and light to play together in different ways. For instance, if a gas absorbs light, it will heat up and expand, so flashing a light into a gas will generate a sound wave at the frequency of the flashing. One of the most sensitive techniques for measuring how materials absorb light makes use of this.

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Genetic evidence suggests the Canaanites weren’t destroyed after all

Claude Doumet-Serhal

The Canaanites are famous as the bad guys of the Book of Joshua in the Tanakh, or the Hebrew Bible. First, God orders the Hebrews to destroy the Canaanites along with several other groups, and later we hear that the Canaanites have actually been wiped out. Among archaeologists, however, the Canaanites are a cultural group whose rise and fall has remained a mystery. Now, a group of archaeologists and geneticists has discovered strong evidence that the Canaanites were not wiped out. They are, in fact, the ancestors of modern Lebanese people.

The Canaanites were a people who lived three to four thousand years ago off the coast of the Mediterranean, and their cities were spread across an area known today as Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, and Syria. Though they were one of the first civilizations in the area to use writing, they wrote most of their documents on papyrus leaves that didn’t survive. As a result, our only information about these people has come from their rivals and enemies, like the Hebrews, whose accounts were likely biased.

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Goop doctor says she’s not really Goop’s doctor, calls site a “caricature”

A doctor who appeared to vouch for and defend Gwyneth Paltrow’s high-profile lifestyle and e-commerce site, Goop, now says that she does not see herself as a Goop doctor and would not endorse the site, according to an interview with Stat.

Two weeks ago, Dr. Aviva Romm provided a signed letter included in a Goop post titled “Uncensored: A Word from Our Doctors.” The post, written in part by the Goop team, including Romm and another doctor (Steven Gundry), collectively defended Goop’s questionable health products and penchant for unproven and often nonsensical medical theories. Those theories include Moon-powered vaginal eggs and energy-healing space-suit stickers.

The post was written in response to a wave of online criticism from journalists, medical professionals, and patient advocates, particularly blogger Dr. Jen Gunter, an Ob/Gyn who has written often about Goop.

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In wake of CTE study, Ravens’ smarty John Urschel retires from football at 26

John Urschel, a Baltimore Ravens’ offensive lineman and PhD candidate in applied mathematics at MIT, has announced his retirement from football at the age of 26. The announcement comes just days after publication of a case study that found widespread signs of a degenerative brain disease among football players who donated their brains to research.

“This morning John Urschel informed me of his decision to retire from football,” Ravens’ coach John Harbaugh said in a statement. “We respect John and respect his decision. We appreciate his efforts over the past three years and wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”

Urschel played with the Ravens for three seasons and was competing for the starting center job. Thus far, he has not publicly discussed his reasoning for the early and abrupt retirement, which was announced just before the first full-team practice. However, a team source told ESPN that his decision was linked to the new brain study.

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