Tuesday’s News Flash -Sci, Space, Tech

Space-shuttle-atlantis-flip-ocean NASA Adds Extra Day to Last Space Shuttle Mission

The space shuttle Atlantis is seen over the Bahamas prior to a perfect docking with the International Space Station at 11:07 a.m. (EDT) on July 10, 2011 on Flight Day 3 of NASA's last shuttle flight. Part of a Russian Progress spacecraft which is docked to the station is in the foreground. NASA has decided to extend its final space shuttle mission by one extra day, agency officials announced today (July 11). Mission managers opted to add a bonus day to the last flight of shuttle Atlantis to give its four astronauts more time to unpack the enormous amount of cargo they are delivering to the International Space Station.

SP_090514_jwst-VS Scientists Condemn Plans to Scrap Hubble Telescope Successor

Astronomers are up in arms over proposed congressional budget cuts that would cancel an ambitious but over-budget space observatory that has been pegged as the successor to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.The House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees NASA proposed a 2012 spending bill last week that would terminate the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) as part of wider-reaching cutbacks that would reset the agency's budget at pre-2008 levels. "JWST will lay the foundation on which a better understanding of the early universe will be built," Debra Elmegreen, president of the American Astronomical Society, said in a statement. "It has the potential to transform astronomy even more than the Hubble Space Telescope did, and it will serve thousands of astronomers in the decades ahead. We cannot abandon it now."

Sts-135-2 NASA’s Glorious History of Training Astronauts

In space, no one wants any surprises. To avoid being caught off guard where no one can hear you scream, every step of every space mission is practiced on the ground (or underwater, or in the air). Wired take a look back at NASA's decades of creative methods of astronaut training. Astronaut Rex Walheim practices spacewalking in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory near NASA's Johnson Space Center in 2010, in preparation for working on the exterior of the International Space Station. Walheim is the mission specialist for STS-135, the final flight of the space shuttle Atlantis (and the last shuttle flight ever), which took off on July 8.

Mf_kinect_f Kinect Hackers Are Changing the Future of Robotics

The Kinect lets people navigate the digital world through gestures rather than mouseclicks.For 25 years, the field of robotics has been bedeviled by a fundamental problem: If a robot is to move through the world, it needs to be able to create a map of its environment and understand its place within it. Roboticists have developed tools to accomplish this task, known as simultaneous localization and mapping, or SLAM. But the sensors required to build that map have traditionally been either expensive and bulky or cheap and inaccurate. Laser arrays cost a few thousand dollars and weigh several pounds, and the images they capture are only two-dimensional. Stereo cameras are less expensive, lighter, and can construct 3-D maps, but they require a massive amount of computing power. Until a reasonably priced, easier method could be designed, autonomous robots were trapped in the lab.

Basilisk-lizard Beautiful Data: The Art of Science Field Notes

That science has benefited immensely from technological advances in the last few decades, or even the last century, is a fact. But one research tool that many scientists would argue need not be improved is the handwritten field notebook. Even as powerful digital cameras and high-definition video recorders have enabled scientists to capture more visual data than ever before, there's something about a drawing that cannot be captured digitally. And the act of making and annotating an illustration itself can help a scientist better understand a subject better. The new book Field Notes on Science & Nature, edited by Harvard University biologist Michael Canfield, makes a compelling case for the value of scientific journals and field notebooks and contains some beautiful and impressive examples of the craft.

B5874_google-plus-vs-facebook-360 Is Facebook the Next MySpace? Google+ Poised To Surpass 10 Million Users In First Two Weeks

Google’s latest social networking venture, Google+, has proven wildly popular. One estimate by Ancestry.com founder Paul Allen pegs the service at 9.5 million users as of Tuesday morning. By the end of the day, he believes the service will reach 10 million users — and then some. By cross-referencing surname popularity (courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau) with 100-200 sample surnames of U.S. users, Allen calculates the total percentage of the U.S. population registered on Google+. Then, he examines the ratio of U.S. to non-U.S. users — one U.S. to 2.12 international users, as of July 4 — to generate a worldwide user estimate. His calculations, if accurate, have revealed some staggering statistics. Google+ had roughly 1.7 million users on July 4. By July 10, that number had grown to 4.5 million. Following an exponential growth curve, about 2.2 million people have joined Google+ over the last 32-34 hours. At that rate, the service could reach 20 m
illion this weekend, speculates Allen.

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