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Rosetta Spacecraft Sends Back Stunning Close-Up Photos Of A Comet

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RosettaYou don’t hear the phrase “scientific Disneyland” all that often, at least not in my line of work, but that is how one observer described the new close-up photos of a comet that just arrived courtesy of Europe’s Rosetta spacecraft.

Rosetta, launched in 2004, recently arrived at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which is a mouthful—I bet his friends just call him 67P—and almost immediately started sending back incredible pictures. This is a meeting that was more than a decade in the making. Taken at a distance f roughly 81 miles away, the photos show off what scientists are calling the “neck,” “head,” “body,” and “head of the dirty snowball” of the deep space projectile, all in incredible detail.

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Remains of Six-Foot-Tall Penguin Found In Antarctica

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colossus penguinI just watched the episode of Cosmos where Neil deGrasse Tyson talks about an epoch before they were trees, in which Earth’s air was far more saturated with oxygen than it is now and thus, insects grew to be absolutely massive. Eight-foot-long millipedes? Yeah, no thanks. He didn’t mention spiders in the episode, but I can only imagine what those were like. The more we learn about the past, the more we learn about the strange and freaky creatures that used to rule the planet. Luckily, not all of them are as nightmare-inducing as giant insects, although I can’t say that the giant penguins paleontologists now believe existed 37-40 million years ago are exactly cuddly.

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The UK Will Have Its Own Spaceport By 2018

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UK spaceportBeing a relatively small island isn’t going to stop the UK from building its own spaceport, especially now that space tourism is poised to rake in loads of dough from customers who want a brief foray into the cosmos. Of course, satellites and rockets can be launched from a spaceport too.

It does seem that the ability to launch vehicles and people into space comes with some bragging rights, just as a country’s inability to launch its own astronauts can carry a bit of shame. The European Space Agency (ESA) generally launches satellites and supplies from the Guiana Space Centre in French Guiana (being near the equator allows for some extra launch velocity), so while it would be possible to use the UK spaceport for those missions, it’s likely that the ESA will continue primarily using the Guiana port, leaving the UK port free for tourism.

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Visual Microphone Allows MIT Researchers To Extract Sound From Objects

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MIT-Visual-Microphone MIT researchers have devised an algorithm that analyzes an object’s vibrations captured on video and recover the sounds that caused those tremors. Lets back up a minute. Sounds create vibrations. Those vibrations are usually so minute that we can’t see them, and in fact probably don’t realize they exist. But a high-speed camera can see them. The folks at MIT played music, which made an object vibrate. They then used an algorithm to essentially work backward from those vibrations and retrieve usable recordings of the sounds that caused them. In other words, by recording something like a plant or a bag of potato chips, they could harvest usable sound. This converts objects into what they call “visual microphones.”

In the demonstration in video below, the scientists play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” over a speaker near a houseplant. When you look at the plant, you can’t see any vibrations caused by the music, but their cameras do. During the experiments they used a high-speed camera that can record at 2,000-6,000 frames per second to 60-frame-per-second digital cameras. The important thing is that the frames-per-second is higher than the audio signal’s frequency. The effects when using a camera with a rolling shutter were even more dramatic. The better the camera, the better the audio reconstruction, but even the more rudimentary cameras captured enough information for listeners to discern the gender and number of speakers talking near the object.

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Eddie Redmayne Channels Stephen Hawking In Trailer For The Theory Of Everything

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This is, admittedly, about as far from science fiction as you can realistically get, but any time we get the chance to talk about Stephen Hawking, you better believe we’ll jump at that opportunity. One of the most brilliant, fascinating individuals to ever walk the earth is finally getting his very own feature-length motion picture in the form of the upcoming biopic The Theory of Everything. Release is still a ways off, but Focus Features just debuted this new trailer for you to check out.

Based on the book Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, the memoir of Stephen’s wife Jane Hawking, the movie appears to have Oscar-bait written all over it. This is just the kind of underdog, triumph over unimaginable obstacles, real-life human drama that the Academy is probably already drooling over. And while we don’t really give two craps about end of the year awards and all of that nonsense, this does look like a powerful, moving story about a truly remarkable human being.

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Massive Sinkhole Likely Caused By Methane

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craterIn 1908, an asteroid or comet exploded over Tunguska, Siberia, creating a massive crater and going down in history as the biggest impact event of all time, roughly 1,000 times the magnitude of the atomic bomb that leveled Hiroshima. Recently, another huge crater showed up in Siberia on the Yamal peninsula, measuring roughly 100 feet wide. Scientists have been studying this massive hole, trying to figure out what caused it. This time around, it seems the cause is the release of methane caused by the warming of the Siberian permafrost.

Of course, before scientists devised this theory, some people attributed the crater to a UFO, which could have caused the hole during its landing (even though that doesn’t make too much sense — talk about coming in hot!). Scientists ruled out a meteorite as the cause early on, and suspected that the sinkhole had something to do with the temperature changes in the tundra, even as far as the Yamal peninsula, a place so remote it’s known as the “end of the world.”