Science News: Some 30,000 light-years from Earth, a tiny gravitational monster is tearing material from a companion star, blasting x-rays into space, and sporadically hurling out jets of radio-wave-emitting blobs at close to the speed of light.
Known as Cygnus X-3, this mercurial star system—thought to be either a small black hole or a neutron star orbiting an ordinary partner—has fascinated astronomers for more than four decades with its surprisingly bright x-ray emissions.
Now, two teams of researchers have made the first definitive detection of high-energy gamma rays, the most powerful type of electromagnetic radiation, from this small but nearby stellar system.
Discovery of extreme particle acceleration in the microquasar Cygnus X-3
Wall Street Journal: A recent study by consultancy Booz & Co of 1000 of the world’s biggest research-and-development spenders found they are focusing on products with quick revenue opportunities, and killing less-promising projects. Nearly half of the respondents said they have tightened criteria for approving new projects.
The survey found a shift away from basic research and toward applying existing technology to new products. That is a longstanding trend in corporate labs and has accelerated during the recession, says Booz partner Barry Jaruzelski.
The Guardian: Iran has sent a defiant signal to the international community by announcing plans to build 10 uranium enrichment plants days after it was condemned by the United Nations for concealing activities that are feared may be designed to produce an atomic bomb.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government said the plants would be the same size as the main enrichment complex at Natanz, central Iran, and work would begin within two months.
BBC News: One of the world’s oldest scientific institutions is marking the start of its 350th year by putting 60 of its most memorable research papers online.
The Royal Society, founded in London in 1660, is making public manuscripts by figures like Isaac Newton.
Benjamin Franklin’s account of his infamous kite-flying experiment is also available on the Trailblazing website.
Society president Martin Rees said the papers documented some of the most “thrilling moments” in science history.
The site will remain free to the public until the end of February 2010.
Physics Today: Updated 9:44 EST: The CERN twitter feed reports that both beams at the Large Hadron Collider have passed 1.18 TeV at 00:42 Central European Time on Monday.
The LHC is now the highest-energy accelerator in the world, beating Fermilab’s Tevatron collider, which has energies of 0.98 TeV.
“We are still coming to terms with just how smoothly the LHC commissioning is going,” said CERN Director General Rolf Heuer. “It is fantastic. However, we are continuing to take it step by step, and there is still a lot to do before we start physics in 2010. I’m keeping my champagne on ice until then.”
“I was here 20 years ago when we switched on CERN’s last major particle accelerator, LEP,” said Research and Technology Director Steve Myers. “What took us days or weeks with LEP, we’re doing in hours with the LHC. So far, it all augurs well for a great research program.”
Next on the LHC’s schedule is increasing the beam intensity and delivering large quantities of proton collision rates to the experiments before Christmas.
The current commissioning phase aims to make sure that these higher intensities can be safely handled and that stable conditions can be guaranteed for the experiments during collisions.
This phase is estimated to take around a week, after which the LHC will be colliding beams for calibration purposes until the end of the year.
Related coverage of the LHC
Wired.com: BMW has revealed the early results of field tests of its electric Mini which it leases to 450 people for nearly $900 per month.
A standard connector for plugging in electric cars
Managing customer expectation for installing chargers and dealing with associated government permits.
Standardizing the numerous types of inspection permits required
Easy installation for charging wall sockets
Displaying considerable candor, BMW North America manager of electric vehicle operations and strategy Rich Steinberg said the small-scale rollout was more difficult than expected.
The biggest problem, he said at the company’s headquarters here, is infrastructure.
Installing the chargers in homes and buildings was more difficult and took longer than the company expected, he said. And even though the car, which BMW is leasing to customers in what is a big R&D project, offers 100 miles on a charge, people still worry about the battery dying.
Eight key factors would ease the acceptance of electric cars, according to Steinberg’s interpretation of the Mini E field test data:
Better diagnostics when faults develop (i.e. was it the car, the charging station etc..)
Public infrastructure for plugging in electric cars
Vehicle-to electric grid-communication
In terms of the environmental impact the electric version generated only 45 percent as much CO2 per mile as the gas version, even though the battery ads 573 pounds to the Mini’s overall weight (and loses the back seat).
Electric cars generate 1.7 times more CO2 per unit of energy than gasoline, but use that same unit of energy 3.1 times more efficiently than gas cars, according to John DiCiccio of the University of Michigan.
Times Online: Last year John Gurney was told he had prostate cancer.
His specialist suggested a wait-and-watch approach. But at the age of 67, and with the prospect of having to live with the disease for years, Gurney decided that the uncertainty was going to be less bearable than surgery. “Everyone I had met said it wasn’t going to kill me till I was 80, but if you are waiting around like that you want to do something. I had to get on the robot.”
The robot in question is the $2 million da Vinci Surgical System, and one Monday a few weeks back, John Gurney got on it—or more precisely was maneuvered under it.
Urologist surgeon’s who use robots are finding that up to 50% of their surgeries are now with the device, and 40% of the remaining are laparoscopic operations using small incisions, cameras and probes. The robots limit back pain, a common complaint among surgeon’s who carry out prostate surgery.
The da Vinci is a spider-like unit the size of a double fridge, with overhanging mechanical joints wrapped in transparent sheeting.
The surgeon marked out four small incisions on Gurney’s stomach and after using his scalpel “for the first and only time”, started screwing a camera port into place.
Justin Vale, consultant urologist and pre-eminent robotic surgeon, said that the advantage is that you can pull things in and out easily.
Within a few minutes, two robotic arms were busying away removing John Gurney’s prostate.
NPR: Researchers are hoping to improve solar energy installations by coupling a solar panel to an efficient hydrolysis unit that splits water into oxygen and hydrogen. Daniel Nocera of MIT says the approach could lead to personal solar power units that could get many houses off the grid.
Science: After several decades of controversy, scientists now know that over billions of years, water can collect as ice in some of the coldest places in the solar system. Whether there’s enough lunar water ice for future astronauts to drink or turn into rocket fuel, however, remains to be seen, says Richard Kerr in Science.
guardian.co.uk: IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri accuses the Indian environment ministry of “arrogance” for its report claiming there is no evidence that climate change has shrunk Himalayan glaciers.