New York Times: Surgeons face a number of difficulties when they carry out gallbladder or prostate surgery. For one thing, the operations require numerous delicate incisions, and the surgeons frequently end up with back problems from leaning over their patients for hours on end. Over the past 10 years, robotic arms that a surgeon can control using a joystick and a television screen have become increasingly popular. Not only do they require smaller incisions, not much larger than a keyhole, but also fewer of them. That could lead to faster recovery, said Michael Hsieh, a Stanford University professor and urologist, to the New York Times. “There’s only one wound to heal with this procedure, rather than three.” But robotic systems cost much more than traditional equipment, and whether the technology is worth the extra money remains to be seen.
NPR: Scientists working on NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover have some exciting new results but aren’t prepared to reveal them. The reason, says principal investigator John Grotzinger to NPR’s Joe Palca, is that they want to make sure their results are truly a groundbreaking discovery—and not a fluke or an error. It’s a bind scientists frequently find themselves in: It is their nature to share results, but no one likes to make a big announcement and then have to retract it later. One of the most infamous errors to date involved the announcement of the discovery of one of the first exoplanets, which was later discredited when it was found that researchers had failed to include Earth’s orbit around the Sun in their observations. Another was the faster-than-light neutrinos announcement, which was eventually attributed to faulty equipment. The new NASA discovery will have to wait several more weeks until the data are rechecked and submitted to a journal for publication.
Independent: A controversial plan to merge two of the UK’s most distinguished scientific institutions, the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and the National Oceanography Centre (NOC), may be abandoned following a public outcry. The cost-cutting measure was strongly criticized by UK and international scientists who fear that the organization’s scientific work would be undermined. Since 1962 the BAS has been the UK’s operation in Antarctica, and its scientists discovered the hole in the ozone layer in the mid 1980s. An official decision about the merger is expected on Thursday.
BBC: Xiaodong Li and Lihong Bao of the University of South Carolina have come up with a way to turn a cotton T-shirt into a “stable, high-performing supercapacitor”—a device used to quickly store and release electrical energy. According to their paper in Advanced Materials, they used a chemical annealing process to add a layer of activated carbon to the cotton fibers. By coating the fibers with manganese oxide, they were able to increase the capacitance of the resulting compound and minimize charge–discharge cycle degradation. The shirt could be used to power devices ranging from cell phones to medical sensors.
NPR: Some 35 years ago, Voyagers I and II left Earth on one of the most ambitious journeys in human history, a tour of the solar system with visits to Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. The spacecraft were to use gravitational assist from the gravity wells of the planets they visited in order to slingshot toward the next target. Both spacecraft are still going, and Voyager I is about to pass the heliopause, the boundary between the absolute edge of our solar system and interstellar space. No scientist expected that the spacecraft would still be working at this point or that mission scientists would be able to upgrade them throughout the mission. The next time a similar trip could be planned is 150 years from now. Voyagers I and II are expected to keep working for another 10-15 years.
The Guardian: One of the most brilliant mathematicians and computer scientists of the 20th century, whose life was cut short when he committed suicide after details about his personal life were made public, is the focus of a year-long exhibit at the UK Science Museum. Alan Turing was a key architect in cracking Germany’s Enigma code during World War II and founded many of the commands forming the basic logic that underpins modern computers. The exhibit includes parts of one of the machines used to decode the Enigma messages; the 1950 Pilot Ace computer, which Turing helped develop; and the computer tortoises from the 1951 Festival of Britain, which so delighted him when he saw them. Turing’s family received a formal public apology in 2009 by then prime minister Gordon Brown for the way the UK government had treated him.
Kickstarter: Physicist Peter Platzer and two engineering colleagues are building a 4-inch cubic satellite called Ardu, which is designed to carry hobbyist processors into space and run citizen-written programs. The satellite is the first of a series of affordable space-based platforms that the team hopes to build. The craft has more than 25 sensors attached, including a magnetometer, a spectrometer, and a Geiger counter. To raise the $35,000 required to build and launch Ardu, the team is using the crowd-sourced funding website Kickstarter. For $325 you can buy three days of experiment time on the satellite, or for $150, pick the locations of at least 15 pictures taken from space. So far the Ardu team has raised $32,000. Testing of the satellite will be completed by early 2013, with a launch scheduled sometime in the 12 months afterwards.
Washington Post: Despite recent optimism that the high-level talks between Iran and the US, Russia, China, the UK, France, and Germany would result in Iran abandoning plans to enrich uranium above 20%, the talks have been suspended, says European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. The sticking point was Iran’s insistence that UN sanctions on it be relaxed before negotiations could continue. A low-level technical meeting on 3 July may restart the talks, if enough common ground can be found between the opposing parties. Under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Iran is well within its rights to enrich uranium, but the secretive way the country has hid its facilities from the International Atomic Energy Agency has raised suspicions about its long-term motives.
Threat Post: The Justice Department has indicted 23-year-old Andrew James Miller of Devon, Pennsylvania, and his colleagues with hacking into computers belonging to the Energy Department, the University of Massachusetts, and other organizations and selling access to those systems over the past four years. As part of his operations he offered an undercover FBI agent access to a supercomputer at DOE’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center for $50,000. The systems were accessed by the theft and use of credentials of legitimate users. Miller is charged on four counts: conspiracy, two counts of computer fraud, and access device fraud. If convicted, he faces up to 30 years in prison.
BBC: Infrared scanning of artwork has been around for a while, but the heat caused by the light source can damage delicate paintings. A new adaption of the scanning technique, reported in Optics Express and called thermal quasi-reflectography (TQR), uses a less-damaging low-power halogen light to generate the IR. A TQR analysis of a 15th-century fresco called The Resurrection by Piero della Francesca showed retouches, unevenness in the painting of a shield, and even changes in the painting technique that do not show up in a near-IR image. More research is needed, say the authors, before TQR can identify pigments to help with restoration rather than just showing that different pigments or techniques were employed.