SPACE.com: Last week, Chilean officials called on NASA to help with the group of 33 miners trapped underground in a gold and copper mine since 5 August. This week, NASA is sending two physicians, one psychologist, and one engineer to Chile to provide nutritional and psychological support to the miners. Because the rescue mission could take up to four months, officials had called on NASA because of its “long experience in dealing with isolated environments”—including the International Space Station as well as undersea environments and Antarctica—according to NASA’s deputy chief medical officer Michael Duncan, of the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
New York Times: Certain materials change their resistance in response to a change in voltage. That simple switching behavior, which arises from the material itself, could form the basis of new, compact computer memory—provided the material is cheap, robust, and convenient to use. In the New York Times, John Markoff reports a recent development toward that goal. Jun Yao of Rice University and his collaborators have built a switch out of silicon dioxide, a bedrock material of current computers whose resistive switching was previously unsuspected. Markoff also reports that an independent team from Hewlett-Packard is set to announce an advance toward the same goal but with a different “memristor” technology.
SPACE.com: The first manned spaceflight to a near-Earth asteroid could be as early as 2025, per President Obama’s April announcement. To discuss the possibilities, NASA held the Exploration of Near Earth Objects Objectives Workshop, 10–11 August, in Washington, DC. The workshop’s goals were “to increase the collective understanding of NEOs, communicate NASA’s plans for a human mission to a NEO, and capture external input on proposed mission objectives.” This week, at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Space 2010, representatives from Lockheed Martin will discuss such a mission using the Orion spacecraft, which it has been building for NASA to replace the space shuttle.
Science: Possibly unprecedented in its history, the National Institutes of Health yesterday ordered a shutdown of human embryonic stem cell experiments by researchers in labs on the NIH campus. According to Jocelyn Kaiser of Science, the message came from NIH intramural research chief Michael Gottesman. The action was a response to a court-ordered injunction a week ago, which stated that using NIH funding to study human embryonic stem cells violates a law prohibiting the use of federal funds to destroy embryos.
Nature: A team of engineers and physicists has used lasers to crack the encryption keys of two commercial quantum cryptographic systems—and left no trace. Nature‘s Zeeya Merali explains the technology involved in this latest hack. Although quantum cryptography had been touted as a secure method to send information, hackers have been busy proving that it is not so. Several months ago, the University of Toronto’s Feihu Xu, Bing Qi, and Hoi-Kwong Lo also found a way to hack quantum systems. Now, Vadim Makarov at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim and his colleagues have published the results of their successful hack in Nature Photonics.
Chronicle of Higher Education: James Lang, an English professor and veteran of more than half a dozen faculty searches, offers aspiring university professors advice on an important component of an academic job application: the statement of teaching philosophy. Although a teaching philosophy is an abstract concept, Lang urges applicants to be personal, detailed, and specific when they describe their philosophies.
New Scientist: Researchers may be coming closer to designing a real invisibility cloak. Among the many groups developing the necessary optical metamaterials are Alessandro Tuniz at the University of Sydney’s Institute of Photonics and Optical Science in Australia and colleagues, whose results appear in Optics Express. They have been perfecting a method to make thin, flexible threads whose components are smaller than the wavelength of light by heating standard glass rods and metal tubes, then drawing the assembly into a long thin fiber. So far, they have produced threads 10 μm thick, but are working to make them even thinner. According to the group’s computer simulations, at only 1 μm thick, the fiber’s optical properties would depend on wavelength—the thread would be invisible if seen in red light, but visible in green light.
BBC: A poll conducted by ICM for Britain’s Royal Society found that two-thirds of the British public were unable to name a single female scientist from Britain. Despite that ignorance, 20% of respondents to the poll picked “Nobel prize-winning scientist” as a roll model for girls. Earlier this year, a panel of female fellows of the Royal Society created a list of the 10 most influential British women in the history of science.
Economist: Will more-efficient lighting actually increase energy use—rather than save energy? That idea has been proposed by Jeff Tsao of Sandia National Laboratories and his colleagues in a study published in the Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics. The team has found that improvements in the supply of light stimulate the desire for more light—just as building more roads stimulates traffic growth. With better and cheaper lighting, the researchers note, interior lighting at home and work, which is currently only one-tenth the brightness of outdoors, could be made brighter, and the outdoors at night could be made as light as day.
Science: Theoretical astrophysicist Yousef Sobouti, the founder-director of Iran’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Basic Sciences in Zanjan, was dismissed last week by the Iranian Ministry of Science. In addition, over the past month, at least 17 other leaders of academic and scientific institutions have been replaced. As Science’s Yudhijit Bhattacharjee reports here and last April, many believe that the regime of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinijad has been weeding out political dissidents in Iran’s academic and scientific institutions since his election in 2009. This internal pressure comes at a bad time for Iranian science, as UN sanctions make it harder for scientists there to obtain equipment and attend meetings.