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Mathematicians Have Discovered a Prime Conspiracy

posted onMarch 21, 2016
by l33tdawg

Two mathematicians have uncovered a simple, previously unnoticed property of prime numbers—those numbers that are divisible only by 1 and themselves. Prime numbers, it seems, have decided preferences about the final digits of the primes that immediately follow them.

Sergey Brin’s Search for a Parkinson’s Cure

posted onMarch 18, 2016
by l33tdawg

Several evenings a week, after a day’s work at Google headquarters in Mountain View, California, Sergey Brin drives up the road to a local pool. There, he changes into swim trunks, steps out on a 3-meter springboard, looks at the water below, and dives.

Scientists Search for Signatures of Alien Life Hidden in Gas

posted onMarch 14, 2016
by l33tdawg

Huddled in a coffee shop one drizzly Seattle morning six years ago, the astrobiologist Shawn Domagal-Goldman stared blankly at his laptop screen, paralyzed. He had been running a simulation of an evolving planet, when suddenly oxygen started accumulating in the virtual planet’s atmosphere. Up the concentration ticked, from 0 to 5 to 10 percent.

“Is something wrong?” his wife asked.


The rise of oxygen was bad news for the search for extraterrestrial life.

Russia Thinks It Can Use Nukes to Fly to Mars in 45 Days

posted onMarch 11, 2016
by l33tdawg

You do not want to go to Mars. At least, not with today’s engines powering the trip. A chemically propelled voyage would take 18 months, one way. During which time any combination of boredom, radiation poisoning, and cancer will likely kill you. Suppose you make it? Congratulations on being the first Martian to die of old age, because a return trip from the Red Planet is currently impossible without using wishful logistics like fuel harvesting.

Arecibo Observatory spots a fast radio burst that keeps on bursting

posted onMarch 3, 2016
by l33tdawg

From nowhere, they appear as a sudden surge of power in the radio spectrum. Then, a few milliseconds later, they're gone—and as far as we could tell, they never come back. They've picked up the name "fast radio bursts," but nobody's entirely sure of what produces them. Follow-up observations have generally failed to find anything interesting in their direction, and the bursts didn't seem to repeat, leaving everyone who cares about these sorts of things a bit mystified.

New molecular scissors cut out lingering HIV—maybe once and for all

posted onFebruary 24, 2016
by l33tdawg

For the approximately 37 million people worldwide who are infected with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), the newest cocktails of anti-retroviral drugs have come a long way in beating back the retrovirus and keeping an infection in check. Still, those drugs are no cure. While the treatments snarl the viral assembly line and thwart new infectious particles from invading the body’s cells, HIV itself is still there, hunkered in the DNA of a patient’s genome until there’s an opportunity for a comeback—say, when a patient goes off their medication.

Treatment saved ~90% of terminal cancer patients, but it has scary side effects

posted onFebruary 17, 2016
by l33tdawg

Militarizing the body’s natural immune responses so that it can fight off cancerous uprisings has been seen as a promising strategy for years. Now, a sneak peek of data from a small clinical trial suggests that the method may in fact be as useful as doctors hope—but there’s still some serious kinks to work out.

Engineers Devise a Way to Harvest Wind Energy from Trees

posted onFebruary 12, 2016
by l33tdawg

Harvesting electrical power from vibrations or other mechanical stress is pretty easy. Turns out all it really takes is a bit of crystal or ceramic material and a couple of wires and, there you go, piezoelectricity. As stress is applied to the material, charge accumulates, which can then be shuttled away to do useful work. The classic example is an electric lighter, in which a spring-loaded hammer smacks a crystal, producing a spark.

Using Gravitational Waves to Pinpoint Colliding Black Holes

posted onFebruary 12, 2016
by l33tdawg

Imagine watching birds in your backyard. You love birds and want to know when certain birds are there. Sure, you have your favorite binoculars to look for these birds—but what if you also listen for birds? Better yet, what if you use several microphones to determine the location and type of bird in your yard? This is what gravitational wave observatories add to the field of astronomy. Instead of just detecting electromagnetic waves (infrared, radio, visible, UV, X-ray), we can also detect gravitational waves.