Moon Express chairman believes his team’s “ready to go for the end of this year”

Chatting up MoonExpress co-founder and chairman Naveen Jain (video link)

NEW ORLEANS—The day before we talked with Moon Express co-founder and chairman Naveen Jain, he sat on the Collision Conference mainstage next to a HoloLens-clad Robert Scoble. The successful investor Jain and the enthusiastic tech-evangelist Scoble chatted about “Startups as a Superpower,” exploring what it means if a private business—and not another nation-state—becomes the fourth entity to reach the Moon. And while the challenge definitely carries an inherent amount of glory, Jain believes a startup will have the next Armstrong moment for one familiar reason.

“[Successful entrepreneurs] have to look at what problems we want to solve—tech is a means to an end, and profit is a motivator,” he said. “If I want to create a $10 billion business, I need to solve a problem that affects at least one billion people.”

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Once an astronaut, now Mike Massimino can’t wait to be a space tourist

Ars interviews an astronaut! (video link)

NEW ORLEANS—Mike Massimino wanted to be an astronaut ever since Neil Armstrong inspired the former six-year-old. He obsessed over space so much, in fact, his mom once converted an elephant costume from Massimino’s first-grade play into his official flight suit.

“She cut the tail off and made it an astronaut,” he said while sharing a vintage Polaroid on stage at this year’s Collision Conference. “I didn’t have any friends apparently, so Snoopy was my copilot.”

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The Arctic seed vault had to deal with melting permafrost last winter

In Arctic Svalbard, there is a vault that might sound like a sci-fi plot device. Completed in 2008, the Global Seed Vault is a remote archive for safeguarding seeds for thousands of crop varieties. If anything dramatic should happen elsewhere around the world, we want these seeds to be there.

The vault consists of a giant freezer room bored into a mountain, protected by the bedrock around it and the permafrost above it. But according to a report in The Guardian, the vault experienced an unhappy surprise recently—melting permafrost in winter.

The Arctic just experienced its second-warmest winter on record (surpassed only by 2016), and Svalbard saw remarkable temperatures and even rain. In fact, Svalbard averaged more than 4 °C above even the 2004-2013 average.

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

River channels on three worlds reveal a history of shifting landscapes

At this point, we’ve worked out the basics of the processes that produced the topography around us here on Earth. But other worlds in our solar system have very different landscapes that could partly be the result of foreign processes. The distant glimpses we get of these worlds make revealing those landscape histories a real challenge. Reconstructing a crime from a detailed inspection of a crime scene is one thing, doing it through a telescope is another.

Rivers are, in a way, topography bystanders that always flow downhill. The channels they carve certainly modify the landscape, but their paths reflect the elevations around them. They can also tell you about past topography if you know how to look. A team led by City University of New York researcher Benjamin Black sought to apply this concept not just to the Earth, but also to the two other worlds where we see river channels—Mars and Titan.

The researchers distinguished between long-wavelength topography (think continents and ocean basins on Earth) and short-wavelength topography (think mountain ranges within continents). The differing scales signify different processes, with smaller features resulting from local interactions between Earth’s tectonic plates rather than the fundamental difference between continental and ocean crust.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

It’s May, so the CDC wants to remind you how gross public pools are

As the weather warms, schools let out, and people head to pools and water parks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wants to once again warn you of the dangers lurking in those cool, chlorinated waters.

This year, the agency is drawing attention to an uptick in pool-associated outbreaks of Cryptosporidium, aka Crypto. The protozoan parasite is spread by the stool of sick swimmers. A single “fecal release” can unleash tens of millions of hardy oocysts, which can survive in properly chlorinated pool water for up to 10 days. If just a handful of the tiny critters slips into a swimmer’s mouth or nose, they can cause stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea.

You might not think that fecal matter is very common in pool water… oh, but it is. As the CDC pointed out in another pool warning from May of 2013, 58 percent of public pools tested positive for fecal bacteria. (A recent Canadian study suggested that large public pools contain an average of about 75 liters of urine, too.)

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Tabby’s star is dimming again, and astronomers are excited

For the last few years, a distant star in the constellation Cygnus, known officially as KIC 8462852 and unofficially as Tabby’s star or the WTF star, has intrigued astronomers due to its irregular but significant dimming. Astronomers have struggled to find a natural explanation for why the star dims so much, 20 percent, before returning to its regular brightness.

These observations have led to various hypotheses, including the exotic notion of some kind of alien megastructure passing between the star and Earth-based telescopes. Now the enigmatic star has been observed to be dropping in flux again, and astronomers have put out a call for telescopes around the world to measure light coming from the system.

As of Friday morning, it appeared that the light curve coming from the star had only just begun to dip, offering observatories a chance to observe most of dimming cycle.

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Tabby’s star is dimming again, and astronomers are excited

For the last few years, a distant star in the constellation Cygnus, known officially as KIC 8462852 and unofficially as Tabby’s star or the WTF star, has intrigued astronomers due to its irregular but significant dimming. Astronomers have struggled to find a natural explanation for why the star dims so much, 20 percent, before returning to its regular brightness.

These observations have led to various hypotheses, including the exotic notion of some kind of alien megastructure passing between the star and Earth-based telescopes. Now the enigmatic star has been observed to be dropping in flux again, and astronomers have put out a call for telescopes around the world to measure light coming from the system.

As of Friday morning, it appeared that the light curve coming from the star had only just begun to dip, offering observatories a chance to observe most of dimming cycle.

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Plot twist: Cheesy soap opera script is deceptive drug ad, doctors warn

This year on General Hospital, central character Anna Devane is stricken with a rare and life-threatening type of blood cancer. Gasp! OK, this may not be shocking; dramatic, unlikely, and always tragic events are the norm on soap operas. But this one is a little different.

Prior to the tear-jerking diagnosis, the ABC daytime drama—the longest running soap opera in the US—made a deal with a pharmaceutical company to come up with her fate. And the company, Incyte Corporation, just so happens to make the only targeted therapy for fictional Anna’s very real form of cancer. This did not sit well with two doctors.

In an opinion piece published this week in JAMA, Sham Mailankody of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Vinay Prasad of Oregon Health & Science University systematically question the intent of the promotion. The piece ends with a call to arms to medical policy makers and regulators to try to stamp out these “creative” promotions.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments