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Games

42 Artificial Intelligences Are Going Head To Head In "Civilization V" 48

Posted by samzenpus
from the race-to-build-Himeji-Castle dept.
rossgneumann writes The r/Civ subreddit is currently hosting a fascinating "Battle Royale" in the strategy game Civilization V, pitting 42 of the game's built-in, computer-controlled players against each other for world domination. The match is being played on the largest Earth-shaped map the game is capable of, with both civilizations that were included in the retail version of the game and custom, player-created civilizations that were modded into it after release.
Earth

Mysterious Siberian Crater Is Just One of Many 87

Posted by Soulskill
from the watch-out-for-exploding-earth dept.
New submitter Sardaukar86 sends this excerpt from a Washington Post report: In the middle of last summer came news of a bizarre occurrence no one could explain. Seemingly out of nowhere, a massive crater appeared in one of the planet's most inhospitable lands. Early estimates said the crater, nestled in a land called "the ends of the Earth" where temperatures can sink far below zero, yawned nearly 100 feet in diameter. The saga deepened. The Siberian crater wasn't alone. There were two more, ratcheting up the tension in a drama that hit its climax as a probable explanation surfaced. Global warming had thawed the permafrost, which had caused methane trapped inside the icy ground to explode.

Now, however, researchers fear there are more craters than anyone knew — and the repercussions could be huge. Russian scientists have now spotted a total of seven craters, five of which are in the Yamal Peninsula. Two of those holes have since turned into lakes. And one giant crater is rimmed by a ring of at least 20 mini-craters, the Siberian Times reported.
Space

Methane-Based Life Possible On Titan 67

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-life-jim-but-not-as-we-know dept.
Randym writes: With the simultaneous announcement of a possible nitrogen-based, cell-like structure allowing life outside the "liquid water zone" (but within a methane atmosphere) announced by researchers at Cornell (academic paper) and the mystery of fluctuating methane levels on Mars raising the possibility of methane-respiring life, there now exists the possibility of a whole new branch of the tree of life that does not rely on either carbon or oxygen for respiration. We may find evidence of such life here on Earth down in the mantle where "traditional" life cannot survive, but where bacteria has evolved to live off hydrocarbons like methane and benzene.
Earth

We Stopped At Two Nuclear Bombs; We Can Stop At Two Degrees. 324

Posted by timothy
from the ok-but-where-to-buy-the-best-grazing-land dept.
Lasrick writes Dawn Stover writes in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists that climate change is irreversible but not unstoppable. She describes the changes that are happening already and also those likely to happen, and compares what is coming to the climate of the Pliocene: 'Even if countries reduce emissions enough to keep temperatures from rising much above the internationally agreed-upon "danger" threshold of 2 degrees Celsius (which seems increasingly unlikely), we can still look forward to conditions similar to those of the mid-Pliocene epoch of 3 million years ago. At that time, the continents were in much the same positions that they are today, carbon dioxide levels ranged between 350 and 400 ppm, the global average temperature was 2 to 3 degrees Celsius higher than it is today (but up to 20 degrees higher than today at the northernmost latitudes), the global sea level was about 25 meters higher, and most of today's North American forests were grasslands and savanna.' Stover agrees with two scientists published in Nature Geoscience that 'Future warming is therefore driven by socio-economic inertia," and points the way toward changing a Pliocene future.
Mars

Adjusting To a Martian Day More Difficult Than Expected 132

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-as-bad-as-adjusting-to-a-neptunian-day dept.
schwit1 writes: Research and actual experience have found that adjusting to the slightly longer Martian day is not as easy as you would think. "If you're on Mars, or at least work by a Mars clock, you have to figure out how to put up with the exhausting challenge of those extra 40 minutes. To be exact, the Martian day is 24 hours, 39 minutes, and 35 seconds long, a length of day that doesn't coincide with the human body's natural rhythms. Scientists, Mars rover drivers, and everyone else in the space community call the Martian day a "sol" to differentiate it from an Earth day. While it doesn't seem like a big difference, that extra time adds up pretty quickly. It's like heading west by two time zones every three days. Call it 'rocket lag.'"
Space

What Happens When Betelgeuse Explodes? 203

Posted by Soulskill
from the anticipating-giant-space-booms dept.
StartsWithABang writes: One of the great, catastrophic truths of the Universe is that everything has an expiration date. And this includes every single point of light in the entire sky. The most massive stars will die in a spectacular supernova explosion when their final stage of core fuel runs out. At only an estimated 600 light years distant, Betelgeuse is one (along with Antares) of the closest red supergiants to us, and it's estimated to have only perhaps 100,000 years until it reaches the end of its life. Here's the story on what we can expect to see (and feel) on Earth when Betelgeuse explodes.
Earth

What If We Lost the Sky? 421

Posted by timothy
from the we'd-still-have-the-space-needle dept.
HughPickens.com (3830033) writes "Anna North writes in the NYT that a report released last week by the National Research Council calls for research into reversing climate change through a process called albedo modification: reflecting sunlight away from earth by, for instance, spraying aerosols into the atmosphere. But such a process could, some say, change the appearance of the sky — and that in turn could affect everything from our physical health to the way we see ourselves. "You'd get whiter skies. People wouldn't have blue skies anymore." says Alan Robock. "Astronomers wouldn't be happy, because you'd have a cloud up there permanently. It'd be hard to see the Milky Way anymore."

According to Dacher Keltner, a psychology professor at the University of California, losing the night sky would have big consequences. "When you go outside, and you walk in a beautiful setting, and you just feel not only uplifted but you just feel stronger. There's clearly a neurophysiological basis for that," says Keltner, adding that looking up at a starry sky provides "almost a prototypical awe experience," an opportunity to feel "that you are small and modest and part of something vast." If we lose the night sky "we lose something precious and sacred." "We're finding in our lab that the experience of awe gets you to feel connected to something larger than yourself, see the humanity in other people," says Paul K. Piff. "In many ways it's kind of an antidote to narcissism." And the sky is one of the few sources of that experience that's available to almost everybody: "Not everyone has access to the ocean or giant trees, or the Grand Canyon, but we certainly all live beneath the night sky."

Alan Robock says one possible upside of adding aerosols could be beautiful red and yellow sunsets as "the yellow and red colors reflect off the bottom of this cloud." Robock recommends more research into albedo modification: "If people ever are tempted to do this, I want them to have a lot of information about what the potential benefits and risks would be so they can make an informed decision. Dr. Abdalati says deploying something like albedo modification is a last-ditch effort. "We've gotten ourselves into a climate mess. The fact that we're even talking about these kinds of things is indicative of that."
Earth

Bill Nye Disses "Regular" Software Writers' Science Knowledge 673

Posted by timothy
from the line-in-the-sand dept.
conoviator writes Bill Nye, one of the foremost science educators in the United States states that only the upper crust members of American science and technology (with degrees from top tier schools) understand science, particularly climate change. He opines that "regular software writers" dwell in the realm of the semi-science-literate. Nye rates science education in the U.S. an F. ("But if it makes you feel any better, you can say a B-minus.")
Earth

Stephen Hawking: Biggest Human Failing Is Aggression 532

Posted by Soulskill
from the other-than-reality-tv dept.
hypnosec writes: Aggression is the human failing that celebrity scientist Stephen Hawking would most like to correct, as it holds the potential to destroy human civilization. Hawking expressed his views while escorting Adaeze Uyanwah — London's Official Guest of Honor — around London's Science Museum. Uyanwah asked Hawking what human shortcomings he would alter, and which virtues he would enhance if this was possible. He replied, "The human failing I would most like to correct is aggression. It may have had survival advantage in caveman days, to get more food, territory, or partner with whom to reproduce, but now it threatens to destroy us all. A major nuclear war would be the end of civilization, and maybe the end of the human race."
ISS

In Space, a Laptop Doubles As a VR Headset 26

Posted by Soulskill
from the elegant-hardware-solutions dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes: On Earth, the engineers and developers in charge of building the Oculus Rift and other virtual-reality headsets are concerned about weight: Who wants to strap on something so heavy it cricks their neck? But in space, weight isn't an issue, which is why an astronaut can strap a laptop to his head via a heavy and complicated-looking rig and use it as a virtual-reality device. NASA astronaut Terry Virts recently did just that to train himself in the use of SAFER (Simplified Aid for EVA Rescue), a jetpack worn during spacewalks. (In the movie Gravity, George Clooney's character uses a highly unrealistic version of SAFER to maneuver around a space shuttle.)
Idle

The Science of a Bottomless Pit 122

Posted by samzenpus
from the free-falling dept.
StartsWithABang writes It's the ultimate dream of many children with time on their hands and their first leisurely attempt at digging: to go clear through the Earth to the other side, creating a bottomless pit. Most of us don't get very far in practice, but in theory, it should be possible to construct one, and consider what would happen to a very clever test subject who took all the proper precautions, and jumped right in. Here's what you would have to do to travel clear through the Earth, come out the other side, and make the return trip to right back where you started.
Earth

US To Monitor Air Quality In India and Other Countries 42

Posted by samzenpus
from the take-a-deep-breath dept.
mdsolar writes with news about a U.S. plan to monitor air quality in countries like India and Mongolia to help raise awareness about the dangers of pollution. "The United States says it will expand air-quality monitoring at some overseas diplomatic missions, following several years of reporting pollution data in China. The goal is to increase awareness of the health risks of outdoor air pollution, which easily spreads across borders, Secretary of State John Kerry said in announcing the program on Wednesday. The program is intended to help United States citizens abroad reduce their exposure to pollution and to help other countries develop their own air-quality monitoring through training and exchanges with American experts, he said. "We're hoping that this tool can also expand international cooperation when it comes to curbing air pollution," Mr. Kerry said. The program, run in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency, will begin to operate in India in a few months. New Delhi has some of the world's worst air pollution, and residents there are becoming increasingly concerned about the dangers. American diplomatic missions will also monitor air quality in Vietnam, Mongolia and elsewhere, Mr. Kerry said."
Moon

Could Fossils of Ancient Life From Earth Reside On the Moon? 88

Posted by samzenpus
from the how'd-this-get-here dept.
MarkWhittington writes Does the moon contain fossils of billions of years old organisms from Earth? That theory has been laid out in recent research at the Imperial College of London, reported in a story in Air and Space Magazine by Dr. Paul Spudis, a lunar and planetary geologist. The implications for science and future lunar exploration are profound. Scientists have known for decades that planets and moons in the Solar System exchange material due to impacts. A large meteor smashes into a planet, Mars for example, and blasts material into space. That material eventually finds itself landing on another planet, Earth in this case. Mars rocks have been discovered on Earth since the 1980s. Other rocks from the moon and, it is surmised, Mercury have also been found, blasted into space billions of years ago to eventually find themselves on Earth.
Sci-Fi

Ask Slashdot: How Could We Actually Detect an Alien Invasion From Outer Space? 576

Posted by samzenpus
from the blowing-up-the-mothership dept.
First time accepted submitter defiant.challenged writes As I was watching another sci-fi blockbuster about aliens wanting to harvest the life stock population on earth for their energy since we are such a robust species, I was wondering how likely and easy/difficult it would be currently to actually detect an outer space invasion (fleet). I am a firm believer that if we would be invaded, we would not stand a chance and would probably not even hit a single ship when it comes to fighting them. The aliens in the movie had the capability to space-jump right into our solar system and even very close to earth. My question is how good are we at the moment in detecting an alien ship/fleet that jumps into our solar system. Do we have radio dishes around the globe such that we can detect objects in space in all longitude and latitude degrees? I know we have dishes pointing to the skies but how far can they reach? Do we have blindspots perhaps on the poles? I also wonder if our current means, ie radio signals, are relatively easy to be compromised with our current stealth technology? To formulate it in more sci-fi terms, how large is our outer space detection grid, and what kind of time window can they give us?
Earth

Oxford University Researchers List 12 Global Risks To Human Civilization 213

Posted by samzenpus
from the birds-and-snakes-an-airplane-and-lenny-bruce-is-not-afraid dept.
An anonymous reader writes The 12 greatest threats to civilization have been established by Oxford University scientists, with nuclear war and extreme climate change topping the list. Published by the Global Challenges Foundation, the report explores the 12 most likely ways civilization could end. "[This research] is about how a better understanding of the magnitude of the challenges can help the world to address the risks it faces, and can help to create a path towards more sustainable development," the study's authors said. "It is a scientific assessment about the possibility of oblivion, certainly, but even more it is a call for action based on the assumption that humanity is able to rise to challenges and turn them into opportunities."
Mars

Elon Musk To Write a Book About Earth Sustainability and Mars Colonization 131

Posted by samzenpus
from the use-your-words dept.
MarkWhittington writes Elon Musk has taken on quite a number of projects with a goal of changing the world while making lots of money doing so. He proposes to revolutionize space travel through his commercial launch company, SpaceX. His more earthly endeavors have included electric cars, home solar power, a transportation system called the Hyperloop, a space based Internet and, most recently, a battery that can power a house. Now, according to a story in Business Insider, Musk will open his mind on his views on "sustainability" was well as Mars colonization in book form.
Space

Time-Lapse of Pluto and Charon Produced By New Horizons 44

Posted by Soulskill
from the drifting-ever-closer dept.
schwit1 writes: Cool images! Using New Horizons' long range camera, scientists have compiled a movie showing Charon and Pluto orbiting each other during the last week of January 2015. "Pluto and Charon were observed for an entire rotation of each body; a "day" on Pluto and Charon is 6.4 Earth days. The first of the images was taken when New Horizons was about 3 billion miles from Earth, but just 126 million miles (203 million kilometers) from Pluto — about 30% farther than Earth's distance from the Sun. The last frame came 6.5 days later, with New Horizons more than 5 million miles (8 million kilometers) closer." The wobble easily visible in Pluto's motion is due to the gravity of Charon, about one-eighth as massive as Pluto and about the size of Texas. Our view of Pluto and Charon is only going to get better as New Horizons zooms towards its July fly-by.
Earth

NASA: Increasing Carbon Emissions Risk Megadroughts 264

Posted by Soulskill
from the if-only-we-could-drink-oil dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Droughts in the western U.S. have been bad recently, but not as bad as they could be. Researchers from NASA, Cornell, and Columbia are now warning that if we don't slow the rate at which we produce greenhouse gases, then we're dramatically increasing our odds of a drought that lasts upwards of three decades. "The scientists were interested in megadroughts that took place between 1100 and 1300 in North America. These medieval-period droughts, on a year-to-year basis, were no worse than droughts seen in the recent past. But they lasted, in some cases, 30 to 50 years. When these past megadroughts are compared side-by-side with computer model projections of the 21st century, both the moderate and business-as-usual emissions scenarios are drier, and the risk of droughts lasting 30 years or longer increases significantly."
Earth

Study: 8 Million Metric Tons of Plastic Dumped Into Oceans Annually 121

Posted by Soulskill
from the going-for-the-high-score dept.
hypnosec writes: According to a new study (abstract) that tracked marine debris from its source, roughly 8 million metric tons of plastic gets dumped into the world's oceans annually. Plastic waste is a global problem, and until now, there wasn't a comprehensive study that highlighted how much plastic waste was making it into the oceans. "The research also lists the world's 20 worst plastic polluters, from China to the United States, based on such factors as size of coastal population and national plastic production. According to the estimate, China tops the list, producing as much as 3.5 million metric tons of marine debris each year. The United States, which generates as much as 110,000 metric tons of marine debris a year, came in at No. 20."
Medicine

Low Vaccination Rates At Silicon Valley Daycare Facilities 580

Posted by timothy
from the they-like-contagious-ideas dept.
Vaccination rates across the U.S. don't neatly correlate with religiosity or wealth; Wired reports that one conspicuous pocket of low vaccination rates, according to California's state database of daycare records, is a place where you might not expect it: Silicon Valley — specifically, the daycare centers at some large tech companies. A WIRED investigation shows that some children attending day care facilities affiliated with prominent Silicon Valley companies have not been completely vaccinated against preventable infectious diseases. At least, that’s according to a giant database from the California Department of Public Health, which tracks the vaccination rates at day care facilities and preschools in the state. We selected more than 20 large technology and health companies in the Bay Area and researched their day care offerings. Of 12 day care facilities affiliated with tech companies, six—that’s half—have below-average vaccination rates, according to the state’s data. ... And those six have a level of measles vaccination that does not provide the “herd immunity” critical to the spread of the disease. Now, this data has limitations—most critically, it might not be current. But it also suggests an incursion of anti-science, anti-vaccine thinking in one of the smartest regions on Earth.