Thursday News Flash: Sci, Space, Tech


Mystery From the Sun: Huge Solar Storm Still Puzzles 11 Years Later

One million degree hot solar plasma travels along magnetic loops in the sun's atmosphere during the Bastille Day solar storm of 2000. Eleven years ago this week, one of the worst storms on record raged on the sun, churning huge amounts of plasma around the solar surface and spewing massive loads of particles into space and toward Earth. The July 14, 2000, event, called the Bastille Day Solar Storm, was a turning point for scientists' understanding of weather on the sun.

Brown_Dwarf_quiescent Two New Brown Dwarf Solar Neighbors Discovered

Scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP) have discovered two new brown dwarfs at estimated distances of only 15 and 18 light-years from the Sun. For comparison: The next star to the Sun, Proxima, is located slightly more than 4 light-years from the Sun, whereas the nearest known brown dwarfs, Epsilon Indi Ba and Bb, also found at the AIP several years ago, are about 12 light-years away.




080529-buzz-lightyear-02 9 Weird Things That Flew on NASA's Space Shuttles

When NASA's space shuttles launch into orbit, they don't just carry astronauts and supplies into the final frontier. There's a lot of other weird stuff that makes the out-of-this-world journey, too.
NASA's last space shuttle mission will launch Friday, July 8 on the Atlantis orbiter to deliver spare parts to the International Space Station. The mission will be the 135th and last flight for the program, which began in 1981. But over the course of 30 years, the space shuttles have flown some peculiar objects into orbit. The list of odd stuff that flew aboard the shuttles is a long one, and includes the Olympic torch, a replica of the golden spike from the First Transcontinental Railroad, and rocks from the top of Mount Everest and the surface of the moon, just to name a few.

Pandora_radio_windows_mobile Inside Pandora's New Social Music Mind-Meld

Pandora got social this week. Now your friends are coming along on the Choose Your Own Adventure-style ride through an 800,000-plus song catalog. The predictive streaming music service is rolling out a new look, new guts, and, most importantly new social features that will slowly transform the streaming, custom Internet radio service into a tool for sharing tastes.
The magic of Pandora is that you tell it you like the Clash, and it spits out five other artists you probably love but might not have known or listened to in years. Behind it all is Pandora's algorithm, or "Music Genome Project." It's powered by two sets of people: Pandora's music experts on the front end listening to ripped music tracks and logging their attributes into the Genome; and users on the back end–now at 100 million–picking paths through those attributes by clicking thumbs up and thumbs down buttons for individual songs. The Genome has “10 billion pieces of thumb feedback behind it,” Pandora co-founder and chief strategy officer Tim Westergren says.


Inside SpaceX: A Hint of Life After the Space Shuttle

Space shuttle Atlantis is slated to return to Earth next week and close out NASA’s 30-year-old human spaceflight program. When it does, no U.S. spacecraft will be ready to replace its ability to rocket people into orbit. As a stopgap measure, NASA recently agreed to a $763 million contract for 12 Russian rocket rides from 2014 through 2016. By that time, the space agency hopes at least one of four private companies it's seeding with cash will demonstrate a crew-ready spaceship. SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies), a start-up firm started by PayPal founder Elon Musk, is widely considered to be leading the pack of firms that includes Blue Origin, the Boeing Company and the Sierra Nevada Corporation. In addition to several successful launches of its home-grown Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX successfully launched their own capsule spaceship (called Dragon) into orbit on Dec. 8, 2010.

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