research

UrtheCast reveals UHD full color videos of cities as seen from space

UrtheCast reveals UHD full color videos of cities as seen from space

UrtheCast, which has been working steadily on getting video of our planet as seen from the International Space Station, has introduced the first videos in full color of Earth as seen from space -- that, at least, the average person and businesses have access to. The videos come from a pair of cameras that have been set up on the ISS, and there are three cities that have been recorded in full color at high definition with them: Boston, USA, London, UK, and Barcelona, Spain.

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LightSail spacecraft burns up on reentry after successful mission

LightSail spacecraft burns up on reentry after successful mission

Early on in the LightSail mission, things weren't going well for the team behind the test mission for a revolutionary spacecraft called LightSail. The test mission was hit with a software glitch early on that kept the LightSail from being deployed. Eventually the reason that the spacecraft was in safe mode was found to be power levels lower than expected in the Earth's shadow and higher than expected in direct sunlight.

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Self-awareness (probably) isn’t unique to humans

Self-awareness (probably) isn’t unique to humans

You've likely heard it said that humans are distinguished by their self-awareness, but researchers are saying that such statements might be bull. According to recent research, humans likely aren't the only creatures on this planet to possess self-awareness, with some animals possessing at least a primitive level of awareness of self. The key is mental simulation of an environment and the need for at least a low level of self awareness to do that, and signs that some animals are capable of such environmental simulation.

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Researchers create engine powered by water evaporation

Researchers create engine powered by water evaporation

A Columbia University team of researchers have created what is said to be the first ever engine that is driven by evaporation. The engine, in this case, is small and made of plastic and able to power LED lights and similar mild tasks when exposed to a plain puddle of water. The engine is being hailed as a scientific breakthrough, and it could in the future prove to be an inexpensive and effective way to generate useable amounts of energy from commonly found bodies of water.

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While dinosaurs didn’t rule the ancient tropics, alligators did

While dinosaurs didn’t rule the ancient tropics, alligators did

University of Utah paleontologist Randall Irmis and his colleagues have discovered some of the reasons why dinosaurs avoided the ancient tropics. It's partially because they just did not like the weather. You like what you're used to, after all. These researchers suggest that while dinosaurs did not enjoy the dry, hot landscape, other creatures roamed relatively freely. This included the armored aetosaurs and long-snouted phytosaurs you see in the image above. The latter is of the family that eventually gave rise to what we know today as alligators and crocodiles.

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Big dinos avoided the tropics due to chaotic climates

Big dinos avoided the tropics due to chaotic climates

Big dinosaurs, it turns out, avoided the tropics for millions of years due to chaotic, unpredictable climates. Such drastic changes in the climate would have been detrimental to survival, causing the larger dinosaurs to avoid such regions for tens of millions of years. Small carnivorous dinosaurs could have been found in the tropics, but researchers discovered that the larger plant eating dinosaurs stuck to high latitudes during the Triassic period. Climate, it turns out, was to blame for such dinosaur distributions.

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Moths could gift low-light vision to new micro-drones

Moths could gift low-light vision to new micro-drones

Moths might not be the first animals you'd think to emulate when you're designing new micro-drones, but robots could learn at lot from how their eyes work. A team at Georgia Institute of Techology figured out that moths can purposefully slow their brain activity so as to see better in low-light conditions, keeping their nectar-sipping position at flowers even when the plants are moving, and potentially opening the door to future machine vision systems that can react accurately even in the depth of night.

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Your Sunday Space Surprise: Philae is alive!

Your Sunday Space Surprise: Philae is alive!

Scientists at the European Space Agency have had a Sunday surprise, with the plucky Philae lander unexpectedly waking up after over half a year of hibernation. The probe landed on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in November 2014, but celebrations quickly soured when the ESA team realized its positioning would leave it short on sunlight for its solar panels. After around 60 hours of operation, Philae shut down and left the scientists uncertain whether it would be heard from again.

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This “genetic switch” could explain the big gonad decision

This “genetic switch” could explain the big gonad decision

A groundbreaking study could answer fundamental questions about gender and sex determination, and the process by which cells become either eggs or sperm. While males and females may come from the same basic beginnings, it was unclear until now how the reproductive precursor cells in vertebrates went on to become either the sperm in males or the eggs in females. Turns out, new research from Japan indicates, it's all down to a gene that's particularly active in female animals.

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Chimps are now an Endangered Species: scientific research restricted

Chimps are now an Endangered Species: scientific research restricted

Primate researcher Jane Goodall calls today's decision "an awakening." The United States has named chimpanzees as full endangered species, giving them protection from a far wider variety of threats. This includes threats from scientists. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have made clear this week that permits issued for the scientific testing of chimpanzees from this point on will be issued only when the purpose is to "benefit the species in the wild" or to "enhance the propagation or survival of the affected species." Habit restoration, and all that good stuff.

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