Space

New Satellite Experiment Helps Confirm Einstein's Equivalence Principle (presse.cnes.fr) 66

Part of Einstein's theory of general relativity posits that gravity equals inertial mass -- and for the first time in 10 years, there's new evidence that he's right. Slashdot reader orsayman reports: Most stories around space today seem to revolve around SpaceX, but let's not forget that space is also a place for cool physics experiments. One such experiment currently running into low orbit is the MICROSCOPE satellite launched in 2016 to test the (weak) Equivalence Principle (also knows as the universality of free fall) a central hypothesis in General Relativity.

The first results confirm the principle with a precision ten times better than previous experiments. And it's just the beginning since they hope to increase the precision by another factor of 10. If the Equivalence Principle is still verified at this precision, this could constrain or invalidate some quantum gravity theories. For those of you who are more satellite-science oriented, the satellite also features an innovative "self destruct" mechanism (meant to limit orbit pollution) based on inflatable structures described in this paper.

"The science phase of the mission began in December 2016," reports France's space agency, "and has already collected data from 1,900 orbits, the equivalent of a free fall of 85 million kilometres or half the Earth-Sun distance."
Books

San Diego Comic-Con Wins Trademark Suit Against 'Salt Lake Comic Con' (deseretnews.com) 107

The Deseret News reports: A jury has found that Salt Lake Comic Con founders Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg, along with their company, violated a trademark when they named their fan convention a "comic con." However, the jury decided that the trademark was not willfully violated, and only awarded $20,000 of the $12 million that San Diego Comic-Con had asked for in damages. The decision came at the end of an eight-day jury trial and three years of legal maneuvering... And with an estimated 140 other fan conventions across the country calling themselves comic cons, the impact of the decision could be felt nationwide...

The Salt Lake group also has an ongoing action with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office seeking to invalidate San Diego's "comic-con" trademark... San Diego Comic-Con, which has been holding events since 1970, has a trademark on "comic-con" with a hyphen, but was unsuccessful in its 1995 bid to trademark "comic con," with a space. The unhyphenated name "Comic Con International," as well as the event's iconic "eye logo," are also protected by trademark. The event maintains that its trademarks cover the term "comic con" in all its forms...

San Diego Comic-Con wanted more than $12 million in damages from Salt Lake, including over $9 million for a three-month "corrective advertising campaign" to dispel confusion... In his closing arguments, Michael Katz, an attorney for Salt Lake Comic Con, questioned the amount San Diego was seeking, noting that San Diego authorities said during trial the organization generally spends between $20,000 and $30,000 for a month of advertising.

Slashdot reader AlanBDee writes: When I attended the Salt Lake City Comic Con I did assume it was the same organization that put on San Diego Comic-Con... But now I have to wonder how that will affect other Comic Cons around the nation? What should these comic based fan conventions be called if not Comic Con?
Space

Almost All Bronze Age Artifacts Were Made From Meteorite Iron (sciencealert.com) 131

dryriver shares a report from Science Alert: According to a new study, it's possible that all iron-based weapons and tools of the Bronze Age were forged using metal salvaged from meteorites. The finding has given experts a better insight into how these tools were created before humans worked out how to produce iron from its ore. While previous studies had found specific Bronze Age objects to be made from meteoric metal -- like one of the daggers buried with King Tutankhamun -- this latest research answers the question of just how widespread the practice was. Albert Jambon, from the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France, studied museum artifacts from Egypt, Turkey, Syria, and China, analyzing them using an X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometer to discover they all shared the same off-world origins. "The present results complementing high quality analyses from the literature suggest that most or all irons from the Bronze Age are derived from meteoritic iron," writes Jambon in his published paper. "The next step will be to determine where and when terrestrial iron smelting appeared for the first time."
Mars

Boeing CEO Says Boeing Will Beat SpaceX To Mars (space.com) 121

Boeing's CEO says the megarocket his company is helping to build for NASA will deliver astronauts to the Red Planet before billionaire Elon Musk's SpaceX. Space.com reports: According to Fortune, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg was speaking on CNBC today when host Jim Cramer asked whether Boeing or SpaceX would "get a man on Mars first." "Eventually we're going to go to Mars, and I firmly believe the first person that sets foot on Mars will get there on a Boeing rocket," Muilenburg said, according to Fortune. Boeing is the main contractor for the first stage of NASA's giant Space Launch System , which is designed to launch astronauts on deep-space missions using the space agency's new Orion spacecraft. (United Launch Alliance, Orbital ATK and Aerojet Rocketdyne are also SLS contractors.) NASA hopes to build a "Deep Space Gateway" near the moon before using SLS and Orion vehicles to send explorers to Mars. The first test launch is scheduled for 2019. "Do it," Musk tweeted.
ISS

The International Space Station is Super Germy (washingtonpost.com) 88

Thousands of species have colonized the International Space Station -- and only one of them is Homo sapiens. From a report: According to a new study in the journal PeerJ, the interior surfaces of the 17-year-old, 250-mile-high, airtight space station harbor at least 1,000 and perhaps more than 4,000 microbe species (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source ) -- a finding that is actually "reassuring," according to co-author David Coil. "Diversity is generally associated with a healthy ecosystem," said the University of California at Davis microbiologist. A varied population of microscopic inhabitants is probably a signature of a healthy spacecraft, he added. And as humanity considers even longer ventures in space -- such as an 18-month voyage to Mars -- scientists must understand who these microbes are. The samples for Coil's paper were collected in 2014 as part of the citizen science program Project MERCCURI. The initiative, conceived by a group of National Football League and National Basketball Association cheerleaders who are also scientists and engineers, involved swabbing down dozens of professional sports stadiums, identifying the microbes in the samples, and sending those species to the ISS to see whether they would thrive. (Bacillus aryabhatti, collected from a practice football field used by the Oakland Raiders, grew fastest.)
Space

New Evidence Points To Icy Plate Tectonics On Europa (gizmodo.com) 65

According to new research published today in Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, Europa has what it takes to support plate tectonics. "Using computer models, a team lead by Brown University planetary scientist Brandon Johnson was able to demonstrate the physical feasibility of icy plates driving deep into the icy interior in a processes similar to what's seen on Earth," reports Gizmodo. "Excitingly, this same process could be delivering important minerals to the ocean below, heightening the moon's status a potentially habitable world." From the report: Europa has surface features reminiscent of Earth's mid-ocean ridges. For astronomers, this hinted at geological processes akin to subduction zones, where, on Earth, tectonic plates slide underneath another, sinking deep into the planet's interior. Several years ago, researchers Simon Kattenhorn and Louise Prockter posited this explanation when they noticed that a 20,000 square-kilometer (7,722 square-mile) chunk of ice had mysteriously disappeared from Europa's surface. Their explanation was that Europa's surface, like a gigantic jigsaw puzzle, is composed of tectonic plates, and that occasionally a plate of ice will sink beneath the other into warmer layers below. But this observational evidence of extension and spreading needed to be supported by geophysical reality. To that end, Johnson's team ran a computer simulation to see if it was possible for ice to sink in this way.

On our planet, subduction is primarily driven by differences in temperature between a descending slab and the surrounding mantle. Dense crustal material features a negative buoyancy that drives it down into the mantle. The Brown University scientists figured a similar thing happens on Europa, but with ice. In the case of Europa, the researchers surmised that the moon has two frozen layers -- an outer lid of very cold ice that sits above a layer of slightly warmer convecting ice. Their models showed that subduction is indeed possible in this alien environment, but only if the outer shell contains varying amounts of salt. This added ingredient provides the necessary density differences for a slab to conduct.

Android

Android Go Will Make the Most Basic Phones Run Smoothly (cnet.com) 101

Entry-level phones may cost less than big hitters, but they come at the cost of space, speed and efficiency. Google's looking to change that with Android Go. From a report: Android Oreo (Go Edition) will launch tomorrow as part of the Android Oreo 8.1 rollout and all Android Oreo devices with 512MB to 1GB of memory will be optimised for Android Go. Google says this will allow them to function properly as smartphones while doubling their available storage space. The experience includes: An improved operating system with better performance, storage and security features; a new set of lighter Google apps, suitable for first-time web users; a Google Play store that highlights apps designed to work best on entry-level devices.
Space

Two Stars Collided And Solved Half of Astronomy's Problems. Now What? (fivethirtyeight.com) 171

"It's hard to overstate the enormous leap forward that astronomy took on August 17, 2017," reports an article shared by schwit1: On that day, astronomers bore witness to the titanic collision of two neutron stars, the densest things in the universe besides black holes. In the collision's wake, astronomers answered multiple major questions that have dominated their field for a generation. They solved the origin of gamma-ray bursts, mysterious jets of hardcore radiation that could potentially roast Earth. They glimpsed the forging of heavy metals, like gold and platinum. They measured the rate at which the expansion of the universe is accelerating. They caught light at the same time as gravitational waves, confirmation that waves move at the speed of light. And there was more, and there is much more yet to come from this discovery... "Now it's a question of, do we have the right instrumentation for doing all the follow-up work?" said Edo Berger, an astronomer at Harvard who studies explosive cosmic events. "Do we have the right telescopes? What's going to happen when we have not just one event, but one a month, or one a week -- how do we deal with that flood...?"

The August 17 gravitational wave gave astronomers a glimpse at an entirely different universe. For most of history, they've studied stars and galaxies, which seem static and unchanging from the vantage point of human timescales... But GW170817 revealed a universe alive, pulsating with creation and destruction on human timescales... [T]he event itself unfolded in less than three human-designated weeks. This faster timescale is "pushing the way astronomy is done," Berger said... In space, the Fermi space telescope glimpsed a burst of gamma radiation. Within an hour, astronomers made six independent discoveries of a bright, fast-fading flash: A new phenomenon called a kilonova... Nine days later, X-rays streamed in, and after 16 days, radio waves arrived, too. Each type of information tells astronomers something different. Richard O'Shaughnessy, an astronomer at the Rochester Institute of Technology, describes the discovery as a "Rosetta stone for astronomy."

"What this has done is provide one event that unites all these different threads of astronomy at once," he said. "Like, all our dreams have come true, and they came true now..." Thanks to the August 17 event, astronomers now know what to look for. Soon, they will be able to sift through an embarrassment of neutron-star mergers and other phenomena... And they are talking about how to turn their eyes to the sky, at a moment's notice, the next time the universe throws something big their way. "It's a wonderful time, it's a terrifying time," O'Shaughnessy said. "I can't really capture the wonder and the horror and glee and happiness."

It's funny.  Laugh.

Elon Musk Trolls the Media With a Clip From 'Spaceballs' (twitter.com) 133

An anonymous reader writes Elon Musk is having fun on Twitter, where he's either promoting the new line of $20 "Boring Company" hats or trolling the media. "To preserve the transcendent majesty & specialness of The Boring Company cap, we are capping cap orders at 50,000 caps," Musk tweeted Sunday, adding "Almost there ..." Responding to a user who asked, "Is this really how you're funding the boring company??" Musk answered "Yes."

An hour later he tweeted that "Every 5000th buyer of our boringly boring hat will get a free hat signed by the delivery guy. That special hat delivery will take place deep within the real, but fictional (of course), tunnel we are building under LA while you drive the giant machine blindfolded. This will actually happen."

And then hours later, Musk shared a fresh insight into his thought process. "The *real* money comes from merchandising," he tweeted, adding "I learned it from this documentary," sharing a video titled "merchandising" which, on closer inspection, turned out to be a clip from the 1987 comedy "Spaceballs" starring Mel Brooks.

Ironically, George Lucas had only blessed Mel Brooks' parody of Star Wars with one condition: that no Space Balls action figure merchandise ever be produced.
Space

A Programing Error Blasted 19 Russian Satellites Back Towards Earth (arstechnica.com) 90

An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica's report on Russia's failed attempt to launch 19 satellites into orbit on Tuesday: Instead of boosting its payload, the Soyuz 2.1b rocket's Fregat upper stage fired in the wrong direction, sending the satellites on a suborbital trajectory instead, burning them up in Earth's atmosphere... According to normally reliable Russian Space Web, a programming error caused the Fregat upper stage, which is the spacecraft on top of the rocket that deploys satellites, to be unable to orient itself. Specifically, the site reports, the Fregat's flight control system did not have the correct settings for a mission launching from the country's new Vostochny cosmodrome. It evidently was still programmed for Baikonur, or one of Russia's other spaceports capable of launching the workhorse Soyuz vehicle. Essentially, then, after the Fregat vehicle separated from the Soyuz rocket, it was unable to find its correct orientation. Therefore, when the Fregat first fired its engines to boost the satellites into orbit, it was still trying to correct this orientation -- and was in fact aimed downward toward Earth. Though the Fregat space tug has been in operation since the 1990s, this is its fourth failure -- all of which have happened within the last 8 years.

"In each of the cases, the satellite did not reach its desired orbit," reports Ars Technica, adding "As the country's heritage rockets and upper stages continue to age, the concern is that the failure rate will increase."
Mars

SpaceX Plans To Blast a Tesla Roadster Into Orbit Around Mars (arstechnica.com) 272

An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica: Previously, SpaceX founder Elon Musk has said he intends to launch the "silliest thing we can imagine" on the maiden launch of the Falcon Heavy. This is partly because the rocket is experimental -- there is a non-trivial chance the rocket will explode on the launch pad, or shortly after launch. It is also partly because Musk is a master showman who knows how to grab attention. On Friday evening, Musk tweeted what that payload would be -- his "midnight cherry Tesla Roadster."

And the car will be playing Space Oddity, by David Bowie; the song which begins, "Ground Control to Major Tom." Oh, and the powerful Falcon Heavy rocket will send the Tesla into orbit around Mars. "Will be in deep space for a billion years or so if it doesn't blow up on ascent," Musk added. Ars was able to confirm Friday night from a company source that this is definitely a legitimate payload. Earlier on Friday, Musk also said the Falcon Heavy launch would come "next month" from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, meaning in January.

"No private company has ever launched a spacecraft beyond low-Earth orbit, let alone to another planet," according to the article, adding that SpaceX's new rocket "could play a major role in any plans the agency has to send humans to the Moon." In addition, Musk added on Twitter, "Red car for a red planet."

UPDATE (12/2/17): Saturday Elon Musk told The Verge that he "totally made it up" about sending a Tesla Roadster to Mars. Then in "multiple emails" to Ars Technica --- sent Saturday afternoon -- "Musk confirmed that this plan is, indeed, real."
Space

China's Dark Matter Probe Detects Tantalizing Signal (sciencemag.org) 37

hackingbear shares a report from Science Magazine: Results reported by a China-led space science mission provide a tantalizing hint -- but not firm evidence -- for dark matter. In its first 530 days of scientific observations, China's Dark Matter Particle Explorer (DAMPE) detected 1.5 million cosmic ray electrons and positrons above a certain energy threshold. When researchers plot of the number of particles against their energy, they saw hints of an anomalous break in the curve. Now, DAMPE has confirmed that deviation. "It may be evidence of dark matter," but the break in the curve "may be from some other cosmic ray source," says astrophysicist Chang Jin, who leads the collaboration at the Chinese Academy of Science's Purple Mountain Observatory in Nanjing. DAMPE's life span will be extended to 5 years given the excellent conditions of this Chinese spacecraft, then it can record over 10 billion cosmic events, allowing researchers to confirm if it is indeed dark matter. Perhaps more significantly, the first observational data produced by China's first mission dedicated to astrophysics shows that the country is set to become a force in space science, says David Spergel, an astrophysicist at Princeton University. China is now "making significant contributions to astrophysics and space science," he says. The DAMPE results appear online in the journal Nature.
NASA

Voyager 1 Fires Up Thrusters After 37 Years (nasa.gov) 124

If you tried to start a car that's been sitting in a garage for decades, you might not expect the engine to respond. But a set of thrusters aboard the Voyager 1 spacecraft successfully fired up Wednesday after 37 years without use. NASA announces: Voyager 1, NASA's farthest and fastest spacecraft, is the only human-made object in interstellar space, the environment between the stars. The spacecraft, which has been flying for 40 years, relies on small devices called thrusters to orient itself so it can communicate with Earth. These thrusters fire in tiny pulses, or "puffs," lasting mere milliseconds, to subtly rotate the spacecraft so that its antenna points at our planet. Now, the Voyager team is able to use a set of four backup thrusters, dormant since 1980. "With these thrusters that are still functional after 37 years without use, we will be able to extend the life of the Voyager 1 spacecraft by two to three years," said Suzanne Dodd, project manager for Voyager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.
The Internet

Russia Wants To Launch Backup DNS System By August 1, 2018 (bleepingcomputer.com) 160

An anonymous reader shares a report from BleepingComputer: The Russian government plans to build its own "independent internet infrastructure" that will be used by BRICS member states -- Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. The plan was part of the topic list at the October meeting of the Russian Security Council, and President Vladimir Putin approved the initiative with a completion deadline of August 1, 2018, according to Russian news agency RT. The Russian Security Council has today formally asked the country's government to start the building of a backup global DNS system that Russia and fellow BRICS member states could use. The Russian Security Council cited the "increased capabilities of western nations to conduct offensive operations in the informational space." Russia, China, and many other countries have criticized the U.S. for hoarding control over the domain naming system (DNS), a position they claim has allowed the U.S. to intercept and tap global internet traffic. The U.S. has relinquished control over the DNS system last year.
Space

SpaceX's First Falcon Heavy Launch Will Now Take Place In 2018 (engadget.com) 130

The launch of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket has been delayed to 2018. In an email to Aviation Week, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said, "We wanted to fly Heavy this year. We should be able to static fire this year and fly a couple of weeks right after that." Engadget reports: The static fire test will be the first time that all of Heavy's 27 Merlin engines will be fired at once. And if all goes well there, Falcon Heavy should be ready for launch within the first few weeks of 2018. There have been multiple launch delays with Heavy, which Elon Musk has attributed to the development of such a large and powerful rocket being "way, way more difficult" than SpaceX expected. "Falcon Heavy requires the simultaneous ignition of 27 orbit-class engines," Musk said at the ISS R&D conference in July. "There's a lot that can go wrong there." And because of that, Musk has been very clear about where everyone's expectations should be going into Falcon Heavy's first launch. "There's a real good chance that it does not make it to orbit. I hope it gets far enough away from the launch pad that it does not cause pad damage -- I would consider that a win," he said.
ISS

Bacteria Found On ISS May Be Alien In Origin, Says Cosmonaut (independent.co.uk) 238

Kekke writes: Lots of buzz around this. Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov took routine samples from the outside of the International Space Station during a spacewalk. These samples were analyzed and found to contain bacteria that must have come from somewhere other than Earth or the ISS itself. "Bacteria that had not been there during the launch of the ISS module were found on the swabs," Mr. Shkaplerov told TASS Russian News Agency. "So they have flown from somewhere in space and settled on the outside hull." He made it clear that "it seems, there is no danger," and that scientists are doing more work to find out what they are. The Independent writes, "Finding bacteria that came from somewhere other than Earth would be one of the biggest breakthroughs in the history of science -- but much more must be done before such a claim is made."
Microsoft

Microsoft: We're Razing Our Redmond Campus To Build a Mini City (zdnet.com) 98

Armand Winter shares a report from ZDNet: Microsoft president Brad Smith said the company will spend $150 million in transport infrastructure, public spaces, sports fields and green space. It expects the project will create 2,500 construction and development jobs. Microsoft's renovation budget is modest compared with the $5 billion Apple spent on its new spaceship headquarters in Cupertino, while Microsoft's Washington neighbor and cloud rival, Amazon, will spend $5 billion on a second North American headquarters, which will offer space for 50,000 people. "We are not only creating a world-class work environment to help retain and attract the best and brightest global talent, but also building a campus that our neighbors can enjoy, and that we can build in a fiscally smart way with low environmental impact," said Smith in a blog post.
Bug

iPhone Users Complain About the Word 'It' Autocorrecting To 'I.T' On iOS 11 and Later (macrumors.com) 116

An anonymous reader quotes a report from MacRumors: At least a few hundred iPhone users and counting have complained about the word "it" autocorrecting to "I.T" on iOS 11 and later. When affected users type the word "it" into a text field, the keyboard first shows "I.T" as a QuickType suggestion. After tapping the space key, the word "it" automatically changes to "I.T" without actually tapping the predictive suggestion. A growing number of iPhone users have voiced their frustrations about the issue on the MacRumors discussion forums, Twitter, and other discussion platforms on the web since shortly after iOS 11 was released in late September. Many users claim the apparent autocorrect bug persists even after rebooting the device and performing other basic troubleshooting. A temporary workaround is to tap Settings: General: Keyboard: Text Replacement and enter "it" as both the phrase and shortcut, but some users insist this solution does not solve the problem. A less ideal workaround is to toggle off auto-correction and/or predictive suggestions completely under Settings: General: Keyboard. MacRumors reader Tim shared a video that highlights the issue.
Intel

Intel Core i9 Mobile And 9th Gen Coffee Lake Processors Detailed In AIDA64 Update (hothardware.com) 49

Paul Lilly, writing for HotHardware: Looking at the release notes for the latest AIDA64 system diagnostics and benchmarking utility, there are several unannounced Intel processors on tap, including a mobile Core i9 processor and what appears to be a Coffee Lake refresh, due out sometime in 2018. Starting with mobile, it looks like Intel will be making an aggressive play in the laptop space with several new laptop chips, including at least one Core i9 processor with an unlocked multiplier. That is the Core i9-8950HK, a 6-core CPU with Hyper Threading support, 12MB of L3 cache, and a 45W TDP. Sitting below that are a handful of other mobile products, all based on Intel's Coffee Lake-H architecture. Two of them are Core i7 parts -- Core i7-8850H and Core i7-8750H, both of which are 6-core/12-thread processors with 12MB of L3 cache and a 45W TDP, same as the Core i9-8950H, but at presumably different clockspeeds and without an unlocked multiplier. The other two are the Core i5-8400H (6-core/6-thread, 9MB L3 cache, 45W TDP) and Core i3-8300H (4-core/4-thread, 8MB L3 cache, 45W TDP).
Robotics

Famous Robot from 1956 Movie Auctioned For $5.3 Million (newatlas.com) 64

schwit1 tells us that "Robby the Robot" -- a prop from the 1956 movie Forbidden Planet -- has just been auctioned for $5.3 million, making it the second most-expensive movie prop in history. New Atlas reports: The complete Robby suit, control panel, his jeep, numerous spares, alternate original "claw" hands, and the original wooden stage shipping crates, were sold Tuesday by Bonhams in New York for US $5,375,000 including buyers premium. The only purpose-built movie prop to have ever sold for more is Marilyn Monroe's "subway dress" from The Seven Year Itch (1955) which was sold by Profiles in History for $5,520,000 (including buyers premium) in 2011.
After Forbidden Planet, Robby the Robot reappeared in a movie called The Invisible Boy, and later had a climactic showdown with the robot from Lost in Space. He also made appearances on other TV shows, including The Twilight Zone, Mork & Mindy, and The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. And he even appeared in commercials, including one warning about the dangers of depleting the ozone layer -- plus a commercial for Charmin bathroom tissue.

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