Category: News Posts

Why Do People Believe The Moon Landing Is A Hoax

From Apollo 15.

Forty-nine years ago Friday, the Apollo 11 spacecraft delivered the first astronauts to the surface of the moon.

The footprints Buzz Aldrin left in lunar soil are still around — and so are the throngs of conspiracy theorists who claim the entire landing was faked.

For one thing, they argue, the flag the crew planted seemed to flutter in videos, which shouldn’t happen since there’s no wind on the moon. Besides, wouldn’t mini-meteors have killed the astronauts the moment they ventured outside?

The “moon landing hoax” was among the first conspiracy theories to gain traction with the American public. In the years since, the theories have multiplied like jack rabbits, swarming all corners of the cultural landscape.

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, some fringe activists insisted the U.S. government, rather than al-Qaeda, had planned the attacks.

Conspiracies about President Trump’s ties to Russia compete with all the real news on the topic.

Pizzagate” conspiracists claimed Hillary Clinton was operating a pedophile ring in a D.C. pizza parlor, leading one true believer to fire a gun in the restaurant.

It’s tempting to dismiss conspiracy theorists as wearers of tinfoil hats. But the theories should be taken seriously for their effects on political and social discourse — and research suggests that, under the right circumstances, many people are susceptible to their allure.




While people’s attraction to conspiracy theories might seem illogical, it stems from a very logical desire to make sense of the world.

Assigning meaning to what happens has helped humans to thrive as a species, and conspiracy theories are internally cohesive stories that “help us to understand the unknown whenever things happen that are fearful or unexpected,” said Jan-Willem van Prooijen, a social psychologist at Vrije University in Amsterdam.

For some believers, the sense of comfort and clarity such stories bring can override the question of their truth value.

Conspiracy theorists often have a high degree of tolerance for contradiction that allows them to ignore evidence against their theories.

Conspiracy theories also supply a seductive ego boost. Believers often consider themselves part of a select in-group that — unlike the deluded masses — has figured out what’s really going on.

Rejection and hardship can intensify people’s need to believe a story that empowers them or justifies their situation, whether the story is true.

People who are dissatisfied with the state of the world — such as the unemployed or those who support extreme ideologies — are highly vulnerable to conspiracy theories, van Prooijen said: “If people are satisfied, they are less likely to pursue this sort of theory.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

NASA Craft Shows Tiny Asteroid Studded With Boulders

NASA’s first look at a tiny asteroid shows the space rock is more moist and studded with boulders than originally thought.

Scientists released the first morsels of data collected since their spacecraft Osiris-Rex hooked up last week with the asteroid Bennu, which is only about three blocks wide and weighs about 80 million tons.

Bennu regularly crosses Earth’s orbit and will come perilously close in about 150 years. There is no liquid water on the asteroid, but there is plenty of it in the form of wet clay.

Project scientist Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona said the blueish space rock is “a little more rugged of an environment than we expected” with hundreds of 10-metre boulders, instead of just one or two.

There’s also a bigger 50-metre boulder which looks like two cones put together with a bulge on its waistline.

Scientists think Bennu is a leftover from the beginning of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago when planets tried to form and some failed.

Mr Lauretta said it looks like Bennu was once a chunk of a bigger asteroid that probably had water in it.




When Osiris-Rex starts orbiting Bennu in January — no easy feat since its gravity is 100,000 times less than Earth’s — it will be the smallest object that a human-made spacecraft has circled.

Scientists will spend a year scouting the space rock for a good location and then in 2020 it will dive close to the surface and a robotic arm will shoot nitrogen puffs into the soil and collect grains of dirt.

Those asteroid bits will be returned to Earth in 2023.

The 800 million dollar (£636 million) Osiris-Rex mission began with a 2016 launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Its odometer read 1.2 billion miles last week.

The spacecraft and asteroid names come from Egyptian mythology. Osiris is the god of the afterlife, while Bennu represents the heron and creation.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

China Launches Lunar Rover To Far Side Of The Moon

China is poised to become the first country to explore the far side of the moon with the launch of a lunar rover Saturday, another step to its goal of becoming a space superpower.

The Chang’e 4 lunar mission lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the Sichuan province in the early morning, confirmed by the Twitter account of the country’s state-run Xinhua news agency.

It’s expected to land in early January after 26 days of flight, said China’s Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.

The lander will conduct the first lunar low-frequency radio astronomy experiment, observe whether plants will grow in the low-gravity environment, and explore whether there is water or other resources at the poles.

Another function of the mission is to study the interaction between solar winds and the moon surface using a new rover.




Since the far side of the moon is shielded from electromagnetic interference from the Earth, it’s an ideal place to research the space environment and solar bursts, and the probe can ‘listen’ to the deeper reaches of the cosmos,” said Tongjie Liu, deputy director of the Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center for the China National Space Administration.

Because the far side of the moon is free from interference from radio frequencies, the mission requires a relay satellite to transmit signals that was launched into place this year.

The Chang’e 4 rover is 1.5 meters (5 feet) long and about 1 meter (3.3 feet) wide and tall, with two foldable solar panels and six wheels.

China is anxious to get into the record books with its space achievements,” said Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor at the US Naval War College and an expert on China’s space program.

Beijing plans to launch its first Mars probe around 2020 to carry out orbital and rover exploration, followed by a mission that would include collection of surface samples from the Red Planet.

In comparison, despite its recent success in sending a robotic lander to Mars, the US space agency NASA has faced years of budgetary constraints.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

NASA’s InSight Snaps Some Selfies And Prepares To Get To Work

If you visit Mars and don’t take a selfie, did the interplanetary trip even count?

NASA’s InSight lander just flexed its 6 foot (2 meter) telescopic arm, and used it to take some more pictures of its dusty Martian surroundings.

The plan is to use the arm to very gently pick up scientific instruments from the lander’s deck and place them next to it on the Martian soil.

A special camera attached to InSight’s elbow is looking for a suitable spot for each of its scientific instruments.

If it succeeds, it’ll be the first time any rover has placed an object on the surface of another planet using a robotic arm, NASA pointed out in an update.




But that process is going to take a while: the team at the Jet Propulsion Lab will deploy InSight’s instruments over a period of two to three months.

So far, the engineers have just been running the instruments through tests to find out if they’re working properly.

“We did extensive testing on Earth. But we know that everything is a little different for the lander on Mars, so faults are not unusual,” says project lead Tom Hoffman of JPL, as quoted in NASA’s update.

They can delay operations, but we’re not in a rush. We want to be sure that each operation that we perform on Mars is safe, so we set our safety monitors to be fairly sensitive initially.”

Seeing pictures taken on the Martian surface will never get old. By next week, we’ll get an even more detailed view, so stay tuned.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Listen To The Sounds Of Wind On Mars, Recorded by NASA’s InSight Lander

Before you listen, hook up a subwoofer or put on a pair of bass-heavy headphones. Otherwise, you might not hear anything.

Then listen.

That’s the sound of winds blowing across NASA’s InSight lander on Mars, the first sounds recorded from the red planet. It’s all the more remarkable because InSight — which landed last week — does not have a microphone.

Rather, an instrument designed for measuring the shaking of marsquakes picked up vibrations in the air — sound waves, in other words.

Winds blowing between 10 and 15 miles per hour over InSight’s solar panels caused the spacecraft to vibrate, and short-period seismometers recorded the vibrations.

The seismometers act as the cochlea, the parts of your ears that convert the vibrations into nerve signals. They are able to record vibrations up to a frequency of 50 Hertz — audible to human ears as a low rumble.

NASA also produced a version of the recording that lifted the sounds by two octaves.




A second instrument, an air pressure sensor that is part of InSight’s weather station, also picked up sound vibrations, although at a much lower frequency that can be heard perhaps by elephants and whales, but not people.

Here is a sound recording of those pressure readings, sped up by a factor of 100, which raises the pitch by about six octaves.

The sounds are so low in part because the instruments are not sensitive to higher frequencies. But the air on Mars is also extremely thin — about 1 percent of the density of Earth’s — and that favors low-frequency sounds.

The two Viking landers that NASA sent to Mars in 1976 also carried seismometers that captured some wind noise. But Dr. Banerdt said those recordings were at much lower sampling rates and did not pick up anything at audible frequencies.

NASA’s next rover, to launch in 2020, will also carry a microphone.

This is not the first time sound has been recorded on another planet. Back in the 1980s, two Soviet spacecraft, Venera 13 and Venera 14, recorded sounds from the surface of Venus.

And Europe’s Huygens lander, which was carried to Saturn’s biggest moon, Titan, by the Cassini spacecraft, also sent back sounds picked up by a microphone.

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Scientists Have Discovered A Bacteria That Eats Microbes That Destroy Ancient Paintings

Organisms that degrade historic works of art (pictured) have been identified through detailed analysis of a 400-year-old painting. The study shows that what can be a feast for the human eye may be a literal feast for microorganisms colonising paintings

Organisms that degrade historic works of art have been identified through detailed analysis of a 400-year-old painting.

The study shows that what can be a feast for the human eye may literally be a feast for microorganisms colonising paintings.

But researchers found that while some microbes destroy such works of art, others might be employed to protect them.

Researchers say the wide variety of organic and inorganic materials that comprise a painting – such as canvas, oil, pigments, and varnish – can provide an ‘ideal environment’ for colonising bacteria and fungi.

This increases the risk of biodegradation.

To find these microorganisms, scientists looked at a piece called ‘Incoronazione della Virgine’ completed by Italian artist Carlo Bononi in 1620.

Dr Elisabetta Caselli and her colleagues from the University of Ferrara removed a 4 mm2 section of the painted surface next to a damaged area.




Using a combination of microscopy and microbial culture techniques, the researchers identified a variety of microbes which had colonised the painting.

They isolated multiple strains of Staphylococcus and Bacillus bacteria as well as filamentous fungi of the Aspergillus, Penicillium, Cladosporium, and Alternaria genera.

The research team noted that some of the 17th Century paint pigments used, notably red lac and red and yellow earths, may be nutrient sources for the microbes.

They also tested a decontaminating biocompound which contained spores of three Bacillus bacteria.

To find these microorganisms, scientists looked at a piece called ‘Incoronazione della Virgine’ completed by Italian artist Carlo Bononi in 1620

They found that they could inhibit growth of both the bacteria and the fungi isolated from the painting.

The researchers concluded that a wide range of bacterial and fungal species may inhabit such ancient paintings but biocompounds potentially represent a new approach for preserving works of art at risk of biodegradation.

Dr Caselli said: “Clarification of biotederioration processes in artworks is important, as it could help in preventing or solving the associated damages.

She added: “This study investigated such aspects in a 17th Century painting, by analysing both microbial communities and chemical composition of painting, also evaluating a possible biological way to counteract these phenomena.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Tiny Sun Sensor Can Protect You From Sunburns And Prevent Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is scary: According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, more people in the U.S. are diagnosed with skin cancer than all other cancers combined.

One in five Americans will develop skin cancer by age 70. One person dies of melanoma (a less common skin cancer that is more likely to grow and spread) every hour.

These statistics won’t stop millions of Americans from spending time outdoors this summer, though it’s important to realize that we all could and should be better about protecting our skin from the sun’s harmful rays.

Now, L’Oréal has a new product that may make it a whole lot easier: It’s called UV Sense.

The cosmetic company teamed up with Northwestern University professor John A. Rogers to create a small wearable device, called UV Sense, that can precisely measure a person’s exposure to UV light from the sun.




If you’ve gotten too much exposure, the app linked to the sensor will let you know.

The device is powered by the user’s phone, and activated by UVA and UVB rays. It’s waterproof and can be attached to almost any part of the body or clothing.

Users can monitor their exposure by using the app, which would warn them when to be mindful of UV exposure.

L’Oréal launched a similar product in 2016 called My UV Patch, a stretchable skin senor to monitor UV exposure.

The company has distributed over one million patches to consumers in 37 countries for free, to encourage sun-safe behaviors.

So far, it’s worked: 34 percent of users applied sunscreen more often, and 37 percent tried to stay in the shade more frequently.

Engineers built on the design of My UV Patch to create UV Sense — and hope it will be just as effective in promoting sun safety.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

How To Actually Keep New Year’s Resolutions, According To A Behavioral Scientist

If you plan on becoming a better person in 2015 by exercising more, eating less, or learning a new language, you’re going to need a whole lot more than just good intentions to get you there.

Here’s a little psychological experiment that just might help you stick to your goals.

So, in 2019 we’re all going to go to the gym more regularly, eat better, earn more, and read twice as many books, right?

Wrong – for the majority of us anyway. If you want a good indication for what you’ll be doing in 2019, your best bet is to look at what you did in 2018.

Studies have shown that good intentions alone will only prompt a change in behavior 20 to 30 percent of the time.




In the vast majority of cases, something a little more concrete is going to have to come into play if you want to make a meaningful change to your habits.

So, surprise, surprise, it takes a whole lot more effort to stick to your new year’s resolutions than just writing them down in a fancy list.

And even more discouraging – research has shown that the better we feel about our new year’s resolutions and our ability to stick with them, the less likely we actually will.

But, as Stephen J. Meyer writes at Forbes, it’s not hopeless:

“I’d be a hardened pessimist if not for one thing – there’s a magic bullet that can bridge the gap between goal intentions and goal accomplishment.”

“It’s what behavioural psychologists call “implementation intentions.” Ugly phrase, I know. But it could be the difference between achieving your goals in 2015 and failing miserably.”

So what exactly is this “implementation intentions” concept?

Back in 2002, researchers in the UK gathered together a group of volunteers who had set themselves the goal of taking up regular exercising. The volunteers were split into three groups.

The first group, called the “motivational intervention group”, was given educational materials showing that exercise does amazing things for your cardio-vascular health.

The second group was asked to plan and write down their “implementation intentions”.

For example, exactly where, when, what, they were going to do for exercise, and how frequently, and for how long, each session.

The control group was left to their own with no help from the researchers.

Amazingly, 91 percent of Group 2, who actually thought about and wrote down all the details of their plan, ended up exercising.

According to Meyer, just 29 percent of the control group and 39 percent of the group who learned extensively about the benefits of exercise ended up actually doing it.

So implementation intentions are essentially about fooling ourselves into doing something – you consciously formulate a plan, and then unconsciously execute it.

Gollwitzer mentioned a study in which students were asked to write a paper during the Christmas break.

Of the group that wrote down their implementation intentions – when and where they intended to write their paper – two-thirds of them actually did it.

Exactly zero students who didn’t write their implementation intentions got around to writing the paper.

Apparently similar results can be seen in people trying to lose weight.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Treating Genetic Disorders Before Birth

Physicians may one day be able to treat genetic blood diseases before a child is even born.

In a study of mice that was published this week in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, have found that transplanting a mother’s own stem cells into her fetus populates its bone marrow with healthy cells while avoiding immune rejection.

If the findings hold true in humans, stem-cell transplants from mother to fetus could prime the fetus for a bone-marrow transplant from its mother—or a donor that is tissue-matched to the mother—after birth.




Diseases such as sickle cell anemia and beta thalassemia result from abnormal red blood cells and can be treated with bone-marrow transplants.

But it’s not always possible to find a match.

And standard bone-marrow transplants, even between tissue-matched donors, must be followed with a lengthy course of immunosuppressive drugs.

Scientists theorize that bone-marrow transplants performed when a fetus is still developing would override this problem.

They suspect that the fetus’s immature immune system could be tricked into adopting those foreign cells and recognizing them as its own.

The fetus is wired to tolerate cells—when it encounters cells from mom, it tolerates them,” says Tippi MacKenzie, the pediatric surgeon at UCSF who led the new research.

Research in animals has shown the promise of that approach.

But early tests in humans came up against a serious setback—the donor cells were being rejected and killed off before a fetus could assimilate them, and no one was quite sure why.

It’s a conundrum,” says MacKenzie.

The blame, it seems, may be mom’s. MacKenzie and her colleagues found that when they injected a fetus with hematopoietic stem cells that were not matched to the mother or fetus, the infusion prompted an influx of maternal immune cells into the fetus.

“What we saw was that it’s not the fetal immune system that’s rejecting the cells—it’s the mother’s,” MacKenzie says.

“And if it’s the mother’s immune system that’s rejecting them, we may be able to transplant maternal cells for some of these disorders and get them to engraft.”

Indeed, when researchers injected the fetus with stem cells from a donor that was tissue-matched to the mother, the cells happily took root in the fetus’s bone marrow.

But Flake, who pioneered the fetal-stem-cell transplant treatment for severe combined immunodeficiency disease (SCID), or “bubble boy syndrome,” says that although a single dose of maternal or maternally matched donor cells might not cure disease.

It could prime the fetus’s immune system into accepting a stem-cell transplant from the same person later in life.

The next step, MacKenzie says, will be to test the treatment in larger mammals and nonhuman primates.

But for now, her lab is more focused on understanding precisely what’s going on in the maternal-fetal immune system interactions.

We’re trying to figure out the mechanism by which the mother cells are exerting their effect. And we’re looking at the idea of immune-cell trafficking between mom and fetus—to what extent does it happen in human pregnancies?”

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Pass it on: New Scientist

What Is A Horsepower?

The horsepower (hp) is a unit in the foot-pound-second ( fps ) or English system, sometimes used to express the rate at which mechanical energy is expended.

It was originally defined as 550 foot-pounds per second (ft-lb/s).




A power level of 1 hp is approximately equivalent to 746 watt s (W) or 0.746 kilowatt s (kW). To convert from horsepower to watts, multiply by 746.

To convert from watts to horsepower, multiply by 0.00134. To convert from horsepower to kilowatts, multiply by 0.746. To convert from kilowatts to horsepower, multiply by 1.34.

While the horsepower, the watt, and the kilowatt are all reducible to the same dimensional units, the horsepower is rarely used to express power in any form other than mechanical.

You will likely get raised eyebrows if you talk about a 1-hp microwave oven, just as you would feel uncomfortable talking about a 37-kW outboard motor.

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Pass it on: Popular Science