research

Doctoral student develops ‘Where’s Waldo’ search algorithm

Doctoral student develops ‘Where’s Waldo’ search algorithm

Remember all the time you spent as a kid trying to find Waldo (or Wally, if you're outside the U.S.) in the Where's Waldo books? Well, like almost everything else these days, computers have turned us humans into chumps when it comes to that activity. We can now thank a doctoral student in computing for developing an algorithm that optimizes the search process and identifies the best places on the page to find the striped shirt and glasses-wearing character.

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Curiosity spitting odd findings after Mars dust feast

Curiosity spitting odd findings after Mars dust feast

NASA's Curiosity rover has been busy with its drill again, and analysis of the second sample of Martian rock is already turning up some unexpected conditions back when the red planet supported liquid water. Curiosity put its low-percussion-level drill into play for the first time last week, carving a chunk out of a site known as "Mojave 2" at the base of Mount Sharp, and feeding it in powder form into its Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument. Turns out, even though the analysis isn't finished yet, there are already signs of a surprising amount of jarosite, to a degree that suggests Mars was - at least in parts - a whole lot more acidic than predicted by earlier testing.

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DARPA wants to piggy-back satellites on jets to space

DARPA wants to piggy-back satellites on jets to space

Getting payloads from Earth and into space is shaping up to be big business, and now DARPA is weighing in with its own piggy-back proposal that could see jets help take satellites into orbit. Dubbed the Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) program, the scheme isn't designed to challenge SpaceX and Boeing for their Launch America contracts, taxiing NASA astronauts to the International Space Station, but instead to act as a more affordable route to put up things like communication and weather satellites with relatively short notice. The goal is a roughly $1m delivery charge and, maybe more importantly, a far faster turnaround than existing methods.

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Planck knocks 100m years off oldest stars, no Botox needed

Planck knocks 100m years off oldest stars, no Botox needed

Age may only be a number, but it turns out some of the oldest stars in the universe could be a lot younger than believed, according to new results from the Planck telescope. While scientists had previously estimated that the first stars began to shine 440m years after the Big Bang, itself pegged at 13.8 billion years ago, new results from the decommissioned ESA space telescope suggest that may have been off by as much as 100m years. Spilling the stars' age secrets are freshly calculated maps of cosmic background radiation, that help explain when reionization of the universe began.

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Hubble captures 3x Jupiter moon transit

Hubble captures 3x Jupiter moon transit

The event that the Hubble space telescope captured this week only happens once or twice every ten years. What we're seeing here is three of the four Galilean satellites - moons, that is - moving around Jupiter's gaseous surface, all within the same frame at the same time. Their shadows are all in the frame at the same time, at least. Here you'll see the moons "Io", "Callisto", and our good friend "Europa." That last one we'll be visiting in the next 9 years if we're lucky.

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NASA Pluto photos arrive after 9 year mission

NASA Pluto photos arrive after 9 year mission

The New Horizons mission has sent back its first photos here after 9 years and 1 month since launch. Onboard the LORRI craft, an 8.2-inch (20.8-centimeter) aperture focuses visible light to a charge-coupled device - a digital camera, that is to say, works with a telescope aimed directly at one of our furthest cousins in the Solar System: Pluto. February 4th (yesterday) also marks what would've been Clyde Tombaugh's 109th birthday - Tombaugh is credited with first discovering Pluto all the way back in 1930.

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One-ton rodent used tusks like elephant

One-ton rodent used tusks like elephant

A paper has been produced by three researchers in which they predict the bite force of the largest rodent to have ever been discovered. Philip G. Cox, Andrés Rinderknecht, and Ernesto Blanco collaborated on a paper in which they suggest that the rodent called Josephoartigasia monesi used its incisors like tusks, "processing tough vegetation with large bite forces at the cheek teeth." Hows that for a horrifying image for you? A 2,205-pound (1000 kg) (over a ton) rodent with tusks, ready to eat your shrubberies at a moment's notice!

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NASA heads to Europa to seek life… in 7 years

NASA heads to Europa to seek life… in 7 years

Let's get real about the NASA Jupiter moon Europa mission just given the thumbs-up by the White House yearly budget this week. While the news is booming, there's something important to remember - we're not nearly prepared yet to get there. NASA still needs to begin orbiting Jupiter with a craft like the Europe Clipper to get a better look at Europa. After that, a landing could possibly be attempted - and at that time we're looking at a touch-down "as early as" the year 2022.

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NASA White House budget up (and down)

NASA White House budget up (and down)

Even with a $500-million-dollar boost compared to last year's total, NASA is only being provided with a potential 0.46% of the Federal Budget. While you'll hear many hearty claps and hoorays at the targets for this budget, this would be another in a long line of drops in percentage-of-total for the federal budget for NASA. The last time NASA received any amount over 1% of the total federal budget was back in 1993. Not that NASA could use the money for anything important like saving humans from an extinction level event, or anything like that.

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Big Bang evidence evaporates

Big Bang evidence evaporates

The Big Bang theory has not been disproven. Get that idea out of your mind as fast as possible. Instead, a team of scientists have, this week, produced a paper which disproves their previous findings that suggest they'd found the first "direct evidence" that the Big Bang had happened in the way it's widely accepted to have happened. Instead of knowing when - 10 or so seconds after the Big Bang happened - the universe ballooned and expanded at a super-fast rate, we're back to where we were before the BICEP2 team announced their findings this past March. That's all.

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