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NASA Picks Boeing and SpaceX to Ferry Astronauts

Source: Associated Press

NASA is a giant step closer to launching Americans again from U.S. soil.

On Tuesday, the space agency announced it has picked Boeing and SpaceX to transport astronauts to the International Space Station in the next few years.


NASA has set a goal of 2017 for the first launch under the program.


NASA will pay the companies $6.8 billion — $4.2 billion to Boeing and $2.6 billion to SpaceX.


Read more: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/nasa-announcing-commercial-crew-winners-25540302

Expect the Unexpected: More 9.0 Megaquakes Are Coming, Study Says

Source: NBC

No one should be surprised if a magnitude-9 megaquake erupts off America's West Coast — or anywhere else around the Pacific Ocean's "Ring of Fire," for that matter.

That's the upshot of a study in October's issue of the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America: Researchers say that computer models of future seismic activity, plus a check of past activity going back thousand of years, suggest most of the Pacific's earthquake zones are capable of generating shocks at least as strong as magnitude 9 every 10,000 years on average.

Seismologists were surprised in 2004 when a magnitude-9.3 quake and tsunami devastated Sumatra and caused more than 200,000 deaths around the Pacific Rim. They were surprised again in 2011 by Japan's 9.0 quake and tsunami, which killed more 15,000 people and touched off a nuclear catastrophe that continues to this day.

In each case, experts didn't think the area where one geological plate is diving beneath another — known as a subduction zone — was capable of generating a quake that strong.


In addition to coming up with the 10,000-year figure for the probability of 9.0 quakes, they estimated that quakes of at least magnitude 8.5 should be expected at least every 250 years, and 8.8 quakes should be expected every 500 years.


Rong and her colleagues compared their figures with the sedimentary record for the Cascadia zone, and came up with estimates that were somewhat different for that area. They said that 9.0 quakes should be expected every 1,000 years for Cascadia, with 9.3 quakes over a 10,000-year period.


Read more: http://www.nbcnews.com/science/environment/expect-unexpected-more-9-0-megaquakes-are-coming-study-says-n203936

Note that those probabilities are per subduction zone, and there are multiple subductions zones, so the total frequency is much higher.

Low Serotonin Levels Don’t Cause Depression


Low Serotonin Levels Don’t Cause Depression
By John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

One of the leading myths that unfortunately still circulates about clinical depression is that it’s caused by low serotonin levels in the brain (or a “biochemical imbalance”). This is a myth because countless scientific studies have specifically examined this theory and have come back universally rejecting it.

So let’s put it to rest once and for all — low levels of serotonin in the brain don’t cause depression.

Let’s find out why.

This isn’t the first time we’ve had to debunk this myth. We last did so in 2007 — 7 years ago — pointing out that most people’s (even doctor’s!) belief that low serotonin causes depression is a result of pharmaceutical companies’ successful marketing. It’s a message they repeatedly hammered home, making it one of the most successful marketing messages-turned-into-fact ever done on Madison Avenue.

However, you may be reading this article to get to the punch line: So if low serotonin levels don’t cause depression, what does? Here’s the short answer — researchers still don’t understand what causes depression. We have a lot of theories still in the mix and still being researched, but none of them have resulted in one, conclusive answer.


If a doctor suggests this is the cause of your depression, and all you need is an antidepressant like Prozac, point them to this article. And please take a moment to share this on Facebook and twitter. It’s an widespread myth that dumbs down depression that we need to put to rest once and for all.


Ball Aerospace to Build First Commercial Laser Satellite System


Ball Aerospace to Build First Commercial Laser Satellite System
Posted by Doug Messier on September 15, 2014, at 5:10 am

BOULDER, Colo., September 10, 2014 (Ball Aerospace PR) – Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. has been selected by Laser Light™ Communications, LLC (Laser Light™) to be its prime contractor for the first global, all-optical commercial satellite system. As customer demand for bandwidth grows, space-based laser communication provides a new way to move vast amounts of information around the globe efficiently and with greater resiliency.

The Ball Aerospace contract will include a first phase design analysis that will lead to completion of an eight-satellite constellation operating in Medium Earth Orbit (MEO). The complete constellation of up to 12 satellites is expected to deliver 6 terabits of data per second with service speeds of 200 gigabits per second, bi-directionally, or nearly 100 times faster than conventional radio downlinks.

While conventional systems require labor-intensive infrastructure and are vulnerable to potential service disruptions, Laser Light™’s system will deliver equivalent bandwidth connections at lower operating costs, with higher speed and reliability. This new optical system will integrate seamlessly with existing ground service networks, offering multiple downlink locations to eliminate slowdowns from network congestion, outages, or weather interruptions.


Could You Win A Trip To Space? New Group Aims To Use Contest Fees To Support Space Groups, Too

Source: Universe Today

A new organization aims to send people to space on private spacecraft while supporting worthy causes on Earth at the same time. Spaceship Earth Grants has launched a contest with a 1-in-50,000 chance for the ultimate ride — a trip into space — and other prizes as well. For example, parabolic flight opportunities will be available for some of the first 5,000 who apply.

“Spaceship Earth Grants is committed to making the space experience accessible to as many people as possible,” the organization wrote on its website. Former NASA astronaut Leland Melvin is its president.

“We know that aspects of spaceflight can cause a profound shift in perspective that positively influences the way people behave and impact the world. Alongside, our grants are intended to facilitate that positive impact in the world. Spaceship Earth Grants will award grants to individuals and organizations.”

The first organizations to receive grants will be mostly space advocacy groups: Fragile Oasis, The Overview Institute, The Planetary Society and Project Nominate. The money will come from a portion of the application fee that people pay when participating in the contest. (The fee ranges from $15 to $90 depending on the relative wealth of your country.)


Read more: http://www.universetoday.com/114581/could-you-win-a-trip-to-space-new-group-aims-to-use-contest-fees-to-support-space-groups-too/

Russia tests ICBM as Putin says nuclear deterrent must be maintained

Source: MSN, Reuters

With ties between Moscow and the West frayed by the crisis in Ukraine, Putin also took greater control of a commission that oversees the defence industry and made a new call for Russia to become less reliant on imported Western equipment.

He said NATO was using rhetoric over the Ukraine crisis to "resuscitate itself" and noted that Russia had warned repeatedly that it would have to respond to such moves.

Shortly before he spoke, Russia successfully tested its new submarine-launched Bulava intercontinental missile, a 12-metre- long weapon that can deliver a nuclear strike with up to 100 times the force of the atomic blast that devastated Hiroshima in 1945.


A Bulava missile weighs 36.8 tonnes, can travel 8,000 km (5,000 miles) and hold six to 10 nuclear warheads. Intended to become the cornerstone of Russia's nuclear forces by the end of the decade, its development had been delayed by numerous failed tests.

Russia is slated to spend over 20 trillion roubles ($536.81 billion) on the modernisation of its army, which still largely relies on Soviet-era weapons and arms technologies.


Read more: http://news.msn.com/world/russia-tests-icbm-as-putin-says-nuclear-deterrent-must-be-maintained

Predictions: Winter forecasts vary between NWS, Farmers' Almanac


Predictions: Winter forecasts vary between NWS, Farmers’ Almanac
By Chris Olson on Sep 2, 2014


Last week, predictions of a cold, snowy winter were common after two competing compendiums of folklore and weather knowledge, the Farmers’ Almanac, printed in Lewiston, Maine, and the Old Farmer’s Almanac, printed in Dublin, N.H., both released long-range winter forecasts for the U.S.

The Farmers’ Almanac is predicting “below normal temperatures for about three-quarters of the nation,” according to the company’s website.

“The most frigid temperatures will be found from the Northern Plains into the Great Lakes,” the website forecast states. The Farmers’ Almanac long-range forecast also calls for near normal precipitation amounts for the Northern Plains.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac forecast for the Upper Midwest region, which includes the east half of North Dakota, calls for winter temperatures, precipitation and snowfall to all be below normal this winter.

But the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center in Maryland is predicting above average temperatures for October 2014 through April 2015, with an equal chance of above or below average precipitation.


Stephen Hawking: Research on the 'God particle' could cause space-time to collapse

Source: Raw Story

In the preface to a new book, Starmus, acclaimed theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking writes that the so-called “God particle” could become unstable and cause a “catastrophic vacuum decay” that would lead to the collapse of time and space, The Sunday Times reports.

“The Higgs potential has the worrisome feature that it might become metastable at energies above 100bn gigaelectronvolts,” Hawking writes. “This could mean that the universe could undergo catastrophic vacuum decay, with a bubble of the true vacuum expanding at the speed of light.”

“This could happen at any time and we wouldn’t see it coming.”

The successful discovery of the Higgs particle has led to calls from within the scientific community to create larger, more powerful supercolliders than the Large Hadron Collider at Cern, where scientists discovered the Higgs boson.

Many in the scientific community are upset with Hawking — not because he is incorrect, but because such statements from a scientist of his eminence could dissuade the public from funding experiments like those at Cern in the future.


Read more: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/09/07/stephen-hawking-research-on-the-god-particle-could-cause-space-time-to-collapse/

Researchers reel from defunding of only UC-owned observatory


Facing a waning future
Researchers reel from defunding of only UC-owned observatory
By Virgie Hoban | Senior Staff

Alex Filippenko feels betrayed.

The world-renowned astronomer and nine-time winner of UC Berkeley’s best professor award is sitting behind a plate of steaming hot food, but he’s too worked up to eat.

“I’ve been a loyal faculty member here for about three decades, despite many more lucrative offers from private institutions that I’ve rejected in part because of my great support in the principle of a great public university,” Filippenko said during an interview in May. “That’s what hurts — I feel betrayed. I feel betrayed by the University of California. I feel betrayed by the Office of the President.”

His sense of betrayal stems from the university’s abrupt decision last year to terminate all funding for the university’s only fully owned observatory — the only one where graduate students and postdoctoral scholars from across the UC system can design and execute their own research projects.

For Filippenko and others, Lick Observatory, perched just east of San Jose, California, on Mount Hamilton, represents the university’s fundamental contract with the people of California to cultivate the next generation of scientists and humanists. Yet, last September, to the outrage of many UC astronomers, students and lawmakers, the UC Office of the President announced it would be withdrawing all funds from the observatory by 2018 to shift these resources to newer facilities like the Thirty Meter Telescope, a $1.2 billion international collaboration currently under construction.


If Police Come To Your Door Without a Warrant, Shut Them Down Like This Guy


If Police Come To Your Door Without a Warrant, Shut Them Down Like This Guy

By Matt Agorist on September 2, 2014

If police come to your door and you don’t need their help, you can simply decline to answer. They cannot come into your home without a search warrant.

Even if the police have probable cause, they cannot come in your home without a search warrant.

You might even be a suspect in a criminal investigation. In such a case you should remain silent — except to say “Officer, I can’t let you inside without a search warrant.” Following such an encounter, you should immediately contact a lawyer before speaking to police again.

The fact is that police can legally lie to try and gain access into your home and knowing how to deal with police at your door can go a long way.

A video uploaded to facebook last week by Avel Amarel, shows Amarel doing a great job at shutting down the two officers who tried to gain access to his house. Notice that in the beginning of the video, police try to get Amarel to stop filming. Mission number 1, reduce accountability. Cheers to Amarel for standing his ground.

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