Space.com: An important NASA authorization bill was passed by the US House of Representatives late yesterday, just before the close of the 2010 fiscal year today. Originally approved by the Senate on 5 August, the bill includes a $19 billion budget in 2011 for NASA and a total of $58 billion through 2013. It paves the way for several NASA projects, including an extra space shuttle flight besides the two final missions already planned for 1 November of this year and 26 February of next.
Scientific American: “Not only is there no epidemiological evidence of a causal connection, but physics shows that it is virtually impossible for cell phones to cause cancer,” writes Scientific American’s Michael Shermer in his article debunking the popular myth. For the same reason that we don’t worry about radios, TVs, microwaves, and power outlets causing cancer—because they don’t emit enough energy to break the molecular bonds inside cells—there’s no reason to fear cell phones either.
Science: A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which had on 9 September lifted a judge’s ban on stem-cell research, has now decided to allow federal funding for human embryonic stem-cell research to continue while the court considers a judge’s decision that such research is illegal. US District Judge Royce C. Lamberth had ruled in August that a 14-year-old congressional spending restriction prohibited federal support for all research on embryonic stem cells. The National Institutes of Health, however, maintains that the restriction prohibits for research purposes only the creation of embryos, not the use of existing embryos. It could take more than a year for the legal case to be resolved.
New Scientist: “Carbon dioxide may be bad for the climate, but it’s good for the roses,” writes New Scientist’s Phil McKenna. Dutch greenhouses have, according to McKenna, been successful in recycling captured CO2. They have been piping it in from nearby industries, such as oil refineries; the CO2 has helped the plants grow up to 30% faster than normal. Yet FutureGen, the US flagship effort at carbon capture and sequestration, has faced numerous challenges, most recently the Department of Energy’s decision not to finance construction of a new plant but to contribute $737 million to remake an old one instead.
New York Times: Four physicists are among the 23 recipients of this year’s MacArthur fellowships, which are five-year grants with a stipend of $500 000. MacArthur fellowships honor “individuals who show exceptional creativity in their work and the prospect for still more in the future.” Amir Abo-Shaeer, a physics teacher, works to inspire public high-school students to study science with his rigorous applied science curriculum in Dos Pueblos High School in Santa Barbara, California. John Dabiri, a biophysicist at Caltech, studies animal locomotion of simple multicellular organisms, such as jellyfish, to better understand evolutionary adaptation and related fluid dynamics issues. Michal Lipson, an optical physicist at Cornell University, designs silicon-based photonics circuits for optical computing devices. Nergis Mavalvala, a quantum astrophysicist at MIT, is making fundamental contributions to physics at the intersection of optics, condensed matter, and quantum mechanics.
Space.com: NASA’s new Orion space capsule is being readied to launch in 2013, even though both its funding and its mission are uncertain. Originally part of the Constellation program—NASA’s successor to the space shuttles—Orion would have taken astronauts to the Moon and the International Space Station. Its fate may be determined later today, when the US House of Representatives votes on a bill for NASA’s future plans.
Daily Mail: Volvo is developing an electric car whose rechargeable battery is to be integrated into the car’s body. The car’s doors, roof, and hood would be replaced by a composite blend of carbon fibers and polymer resin, which would store and charge more energy faster than conventional batteries and reduce the car’s weight by as much as 15%. If successful, the technology could also be applied to other devices, such as mobile phones and laptops, to make them smaller, lighter, and more portable.
NPR: Recently, the New York Times online featured stunning images of atomic bomb explosions, some taken in the 1950s and 1960s by Harold Edgerton, a professor at MIT who developed the rapatronic camera specifically for that purpose. Capturing the explosions was exceptionally challenging, partly because of the extraordinary light intensity and the ultrashort duration. Edgerton, who specialized in stop-motion photography, earned the reputation of being “the man who made time stand still.” While his images reveal what the human eye cannot see, they also achieve a certain visual aesthetic.
New Scientist: The Shweeb, one of five ideas that won prize money from Google in its Project 10100 competition, is a cross between a monorail train and a recumbent bike. A person sits inside a pod hanging from a rail and pedals to propel himself or herself forward. The company, which plans to put its $1 million prize money toward creating a system for city commuters, claims the Shweeb could carry about 1200 people per hour at speeds up to 50 km per hour.
Focus Taiwan News Channel: At the fourth International Earth Science Olympiad at Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Taiwan repeated its win from the 2007 olympiad by taking three gold medals and one silver medal. The competition for secondary-school students consists of two parts, a theoretical examination, made up of Earth science problems, and a practical examination, which includes timed experiments. One competitor who won gold, Yang Hung-yi from National Tainan Senior High School, hopes to compete in the International Physics Olympiad next year. Taiwan has ranked at the top all four years and has won a total of 12 gold medals and 4 silver medals.