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This Upgraded Telescope Captures Never-Before-Seen Images Of Planets Being Born

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planet formationThanks to Voyager and Cassini, we’ve been able to detect Saturn’s F ring giving birth to moons. Sure, the moons don’t last very long before they disintegrate, but celestial births are still pretty exciting (and they don’t involve any expensive registries or showers). Recently, the ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) radio telescope (which is actually a set of 66 individual telescopes), received ah high-resolution upgrade that allowed it to record images of planets being born around a young star.

Stars such as our sun are formed when gravity condenses gas and dust clouds into a core. Planets then form inside of those dense clouds, which makes them difficult to observe. However, ALMA, located in the Atacama desert in northern Chile, was able to use longer wavelengths thanks to the antennas recently spaced 15 kilometers apart, which allows for comparisons of signals. These upgrades were implemented in September, and since then, the telescope’s target has been HL Tau, the “infant” star (it’s less than a million years old, after all) in the Taurus constellation roughly 450 light years from Earth. According to research, the new images ALMA obtained are tantamount to me photographing a penny from 70 miles away.

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Bats Jam Each Other’s Signals

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Technology mimics nature all the time, though usually intentionally. Scientists were surprised when they recently learned that bats jam each other’s sonar when they compete for food. No, it’s not some NSA hijinks or animal cyborg project — it’s actually a skill bats have adapted over time, and it’s pretty impressive.

As you probably know, bats use sonar, or echolocation, to maneuver in their pitch-black caves and to catch prey in total darkness. In fact, they also use sonar to distinguish between surfaces, such as water.

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Most Of Our DNA Might Not Do Anything At All, Here’s Why

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DNAYou probably learned, as I did, that who and what we are as humans and as individuals depends on our DNA. I remember back in school being more interested in the double helix shape than about what DNA actually does, but I was young and foolish, and now I know better. DNA is pretty darn important…or at least, I thought I knew that. A controversial new study from the University of Oxford Wellcome Trust Centre indicates that perhaps as little as 8.2% of our DNA actually does something important.

Scientists have long known about “junk DNA,” thought to do nothing more than take up space. Even though scientists generally believed that this was really just clutter, many thought it still had to do something, even if we didn’t yet know what it was. One recent theory is that it might explain why humans still have an old Neanderthal virus kicking around in their genes.

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This Kickstarter Aims To Bring Robotic Combat Back To The Masses

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robogamesRemember Robot Wars from back in the day? Actually, there were a few—the 1994 U.S. series in San Francisco, a British game show first broadcast on BBC in 1998, and then a Nickelodeon version featuring kids driving the robots in 2002. All of these shows gave rise to SyFy’s Robot Combat League (which features humanoid, mecha-ish robots, and is by far the weakest of them all). Anyway, robots have been fighting each other for human entertainment for a while now, but unless Robot Combat League gets another season, there’s a dearth of these shows available at the moment. But all that’s about to change—RoboGames is coming to a computer near you.

RoboGames, created by the Robotics Society of America in 2004, bills itself as the “Olympics of Robots.” Competitors from all over the world compete in over 50 different robot fighting events, including Kung-Fu, Lego robots (including Lego bowling!), bartending, painting, and weight lifting—basically, if it’s something a robot can do, it’s an event. The games are held every year, and have aired on the Science Channel and on Discovery, but thanks to a successful Kickstarter, we’ll soon have access to a bunch of new mech combat, this time, in the form of a new independent web series.

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This Kickstarter Campaign Aims To Make Tornado-Chasing Drones, Here’s Why

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droneWhen I was two, a tornado plowed through my hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan, blazing a trail of destruction through the downtown core. The damage was so bad that a few months later, someone in town started printing, “Yes, there really is a Kalamazoo” t-shirts, affirming that the city was still there. My parents tell me that the mess in our yard made me cry and that I was afraid I’d somehow get in trouble for it. We also dug a Kentucky Fried Chicken mashed potato spoon out of the ground (there was a KFC about a mile away) and I still use it as an ice cream scoop. Even though it’s not in tornado alley, Michigan gets it fair share of twisters, but even more than that, it gets a slew of scares. But now there might be a way to more accurately predict tornadoes: drones.

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This Rover Dressed As A Chick Helps The Study Of Emperor Penguins, Here’s How

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penguinbotI’m a sucker for adorable robots, particularly those that emulate animals. I’m not talking about Boston Dynamic’s Big Dog or lightning-fast robotic cheetah, I mean things like robotic kangaroos and sea turtles. Now there’s another one to add to the list, and it may just be my new favorite: the robotic baby emperor penguin.

Emperor penguins are difficult to study—they’re shy and they live in Antarctic. I once saw a David Attenborough wildlife documentary about them, and they’re pretty darn interesting. They’re the tallest and heaviest penguins in the world, and they actually breed during the winter, which in Antarctica is pretty crazy, especially when all the male penguins huddle together incubating their eggs while the females go find food. They go months without eating, forming and reforming their huddle to keep warm, and rotating who gets to be on the inside.