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NASA Could Construct A Cloud City Over Venus, Details Here

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Cloud CityWith events like the successful test flight of the new Orion spacecraft, there’s been a great deal of talk about crewed missions to Mars lately. There’s even a rough timeline now, as NASA has eyes on setting foot on the Red Planet in the 2030s. But Mars isn’t the only planet in the neighborhood, and some are talking about travelling to Venus, and they’re borrowing ideas from Star Wars, specifically The Empire Strikes Back, to further their cause.

The surface and atmosphere of Venus are far too troublesome to realistically plan any human visitation—temperatures hover around 500 degree Celsius—despite the fact that it is a much shorter journey than the one to Mars: roughly 440 days versus somewhere between 650 and 900. That said, there is apparently one specific spot in the atmosphere where scientists believe we could place air ships and even build a permanent settlement, a kind of Cloud City. Whether or not Lando will come out of retirement to run the joint remains to be seen, but some think it could be easier than going to Mars, at least in some ways.

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Where Does Weight Go When You Drop Pounds? The Answer Will Surprise You.

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weightloss-578x807When it comes to the science of weight loss, most people are concerned about calorie consumption vs. calorie burning ratios, or whether 100 calories of carbs is different, or worse, than 100 calories of protein. One question I’ve never thought to ask when it comes to losing weight is where that mass actually goes. In a recent paper published in the British Medical Journal, researchers from the University of New South Wales show that most people, even folks whose business is to know about all aspects of weight loss, don’t actually know where the weight goes. The answer is most of it escapes our body ascarbon dioxide when we exhale.

If you think about it, there are many possible answers to the question of where our lost weight goes. Maybe it turns into muscle. Maybe we sweat, poop, or pee it out. Maybe it gets converted to energy or heat. I’ll admit that before I read the study, I probably would have gone with that answer. I wouldn’t be alone, either. According to the study, half of the 150 doctors, nutritionists, and exercise gurus surveyed by the researchers thought the same thing. But hey, it’s not like they’re scientists or anything…oh wait….

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Mars MAVEN Probe Reveals New Information About Martian Atmosphere

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MAVENRecently, there’s been a whole slew of information coming from Mars — a meteorite with organic compounds, findings from Curiosity that increase the likelihood that life once existed on the Red Planet, and now methane emissions that could suggest that life currently exists on Mars. All of that is a lot to wrap one’s mind around, so it’s easy to forget about NASA’s other Mars program — MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN). MAVEN’s goal is to try and obtain information that will help scientists figure out where Mars’ atmosphere went. Recently, NASA released some preliminary information gathered by MAVEN that starts to detail the process by which Mars lost its atmosphere, which likely involves solar wind.

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Curiosity Detects Fluctuating Methane Emissions on Mars

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curiosityThis could be it, folks. The evidence for life on Mars is mounting—it’s still circumstantial at this point, but every new discovery and every tantalizing hint gets us closer to answering the million (billion?) dollar question: did life ever exist on Mars? And the obvious follow up question: does life exist on Mars right now? In addition to the evidence released last week about Gale Crater’s massive lake and the amount of time they now believe Mars was ripe for life, scientists released another new finding involving surprising and fluctuating methane emissions on the Red Planet. Sure, there are a few possible explanations for the methane, but one of them is that it comes from something biological—i.e., Martians. Probably only microbial ones, but still. This is a seriously big deal.

As you might know, Curiosity Rover’s time on Mars has culminated in its journey to Mount Sharp, where it’s been examining rocks and soil buried deep below the mountain’s surface. Mount Sharp is located in Gale Crater, which scientists now know used to have a bunch of lakes, rivers, and deltas, and seems like a pretty good spot to foster some kind of life. But life is tough to find, especially when you’re not exactly sure what you’re looking for. Martian meteorites have been found to contain organic compounds, but scientists still can’t say with certainty that they prove the existence of past life on Mars. So Curiosity keeps looking. One of the best ways scientists know of to hunt for life is by studying methane emissions (one of the gases responsible for the greenhouse effect).

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Latest Message From Sony Hackers Threatens Violence

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sonyWow, this hack on Sony just keeps getting bigger and bigger, and worse and worse—unless, of course, the downfall of Sony makes you happy. But even then, I can’t help but wonder if we’ll feel the ripple of effects of this massive breach in ways none of us want, such as censorship. Today, the latest round of posted information—a “Christmas gift,” according to the hackers—went a step further than any of the previous ones: this time, the hackers are threatening anyone who sees Sony’s The Interview, a satire about two journalists (Seth Rogen and James Franco) who are hired to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

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NASA Gets An Unexpected Budget Increase—Yes, You Read That Right

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nasacrewWhat’s the first thing you think of when someone says NASA? Maybe the Apollo missions, maybe the ISS, maybe the Challenger disaster. Whatever it is, I bet one thing no one thinks of anymore is piles and piles of money. NASA is perennially underfunded to the extent that its spokespeople have said its meager budget puts people at risk for asteroid hits, may jeopardize future Mars missions, and generally spells nothing good for the future of America’s space program. So far, 2014 has been a decent year for the space agency, though, with the successful test flight of the Orion spacecraft and the renewal of seven planetary missions. But 2014—and beyond—just got a whole lot better. When the House of Representatives passed the “CRomnibus” bill last week, thankfully averting another government shutdown, it actually gave NASA more than it asked for, raising the agency’s budget by 2% for next year.

The Senate passed the bill over the weekend, and now all President Obama has to do is sign it. Considering that the bill allocates $550 million more for NASA than Obama requested for 2015 (and that a bunch of other hitches were ironed out over the past week), there’s no reason to think he won’t . What that means is NASA is poised to receive just over $18 billion total next year, which is its highest level of funding in a while—$364 million more than they received last year.

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