More than 300 reindeer killed by lightning in Norway

 

China to attempt a space first: Landing on the far side of the Moon


The Chang’e-3 probe carried the Yutu rover to the lunar surface in 2013.
CNS

China plans to become the first nation to land a probe on the far side of the Moon, according toXinhua News Agency, the country’s official press organization.

Launching possibly as early as 2018, the mission represents the next step in China’s plans to explore the Moon with robotic probes and, within the next decade, to return a couple of kilograms of lunar material to Earth. The proposed Chang’e-4 probe follows the successful soft landing of the Chang’e-3 probe on the near side of the Moon in December 2013.

Although the new probe was built as the engineering backup to the Chang’e-3 lander, Chinese officials said the structure could handle a larger payload. China plans to use the probe to study “geological conditions” on the far side of the moon. The Chang’e probes are named after the Chinese goddess of the Moon.China has also offered foreign countries the opportunity to participate in its lunar exploration programs. In contrast to NASA, Europe and Russia have both signaled their interest in further studying the Moon and likely landing humans there, before moving on to Mars. Many countries and businesses see potential value in ice at the lunar poles and rare minerals in the lunar soil. The US Congress recently passed a law to legalize the mining of these resources.

Humans have studied the far side of the Moon from above since 1959, when the Soviet Union’s Luna 3 spacecraft returned the first grainy images of its pockmarked surface. But no humans or robotic spacecraft have yet landed there.

Can You Pass a Drug Test While Using Marijuana?

drug testing on The Office

Dwight Schrute hands Michael Scott a clean urinalysis sample on The Office | NBC

In Season 2 of The Office, employee and Volunteer Sheriff’s Deputy Dwight Schrute finds half of a marijuana jointin the parking lot of the office building, and calls for immediate drug testing of the entire staff. Michael Scott, the manager, had been to an Alicia Keys concert two nights before and smoked what he was told were “clove cigarettes” with other concert-goers. When the drug tester shows up to the office, Michael tells Dwight he might have “gotten high accidentally by a girl with a lip ring,” and convinces Dwight to supply him with a sample of clean urine for the test.
What made for a humorous bit on a TV show is a valid concern for many employees across the United States, who can be subjected to random drug testing during the course of their work — especially during a pre-employment ritual for job applicants. Drug testing isn’t as common as it used to be, since research has shown the threat of peeing in a cup doesn’t really improve workplace safety or productivity. However, roughly half of employers still use the practice, with more considering renewed testing in light of relaxed marijuana laws.
As medical marijuana has become legal in many states, and recreational cannabis has been approved in four states and Washington, D.C., employers have started to consider new testing efforts to ensure their employees are showing up sober. The problem is that even if someone isn’t high, remnants of marijuana can still show up for a significant time period after smoking their last joint. While other drugs like alcohol, cocaine, and heroin disappear in your body’s system after a day or so, marijuana can linger for much longer. How long, exactly? Unfortunately, it depends on numerous personal factors.

Marijuana and drug testing: Will you pass?

Female hands rolling a joint

Unfortunately, urinalysis — the most common form of drug testing in most workplaces — does not detect THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana that actually creates the “high.” Instead, it detects nonactive metabolites from the drug, which tend to stay in the body for much longer. Those metabolites are filtered out by your body but are fat-soluble, which take longer to process than water-soluble components. That also means that factors like your weight, diet, and exercise habits can impact how long the remnants of the drug stay in your body, long after the high is gone. Like most drugs, how often you use cannabis products is also a variable.
Even among expert sources, those estimations vary. However, in Michael Scott’s case, it’s very likely that his own urine sample would have given away his crazy night with Alicia Keys and Lip-Ring Girl. Sources like NORML and the National Drug Court Institute report the following estimations:
  • Occasional users (Once per week or less): Stays in system for 1-5 days after the last use
  • Regular users (More than once per week): Stays in system for 1-3 weeks after last use
  • Heavy users (Multiple times per day, or regular use for a prolonged period of time): Can stay in system up to 4-6 weeks after last use
One study found that for some heavy users, marijuana use is detectable for up to 110 days — which is more than three months..  

Doctor holding a bottle of urine sample

If you’re taking a urine test, the lab technician is looking for a certain concentration of those metabolites. Typically, the threshold for a positive test — and likely a rough conversation with your boss — is 50 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) or more.
A few things to note: At that level, using the excuse of passive smoking (e.g. “My roommate smoked last night, but I didn’t,”) won’t cut it. Only extreme circumstances — like getting locked in a closet with several heavy pot users for hours at a time — would potentially cause enough exposure to register a positive urine sample. NORML notes that passive smoking could cause positive readings at 25 ng/ml or lower, but it still might not be a valid cause.
Even if you legally smoke marijuana, you could still be fired for a positive test result — no matter which state you live in. With that in mind, it’s your best bet to turn in a clean sample, if you’re given advance notice. Most sites caution you to steer clear of self-advertised “cleansing” products, as most of them aren’t proven to be effective and can be harmful to your health. If you have a few weeks to get clean, the best option is to drink plenty of water, eat lean and healthy foods, and perhaps drink natural diuretics like cranberry juice or coffee.marijuana overdose
NORML advises against using marijuana on the job, but if you need to take a test and used marijuana recently, the site recommends drinking as much water before the test as possible, to dilute the concentration of any marijuana-related metabolites. However, some lab techs will reject a sample if it’s too watery. Taking 50-100 milligrams of vitamin B-2 can help to color the sample so it doesn’t appear too diluted — though it’s not a foolproof solution.

Of course, the safest option is to abstain from marijuana use completely in the weeks leading up to a drug test, so you don’t need to have an uncomfortable conversation with your boss or potential HR manager. Even if you’re using marijuana within the confines of your state and local laws, a positive test result could spell trouble for your career.


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Father And Son Find Mysterious Sphere Floating Off Australian Coast

When Mark Watkins headed out for a fishing trip off the coast of Western Australia, he’d hoped to come home with dinner. Instead, he came home with one heck of a story.

That’s because, as he and his father drove their boat through the choppy morning waves, they happened upon an amazingly bizarre sight. At first they thought it was a boat, then, a hot air balloon. The truth, however, was even crazier.

When they first spotted it floating above the waves, Mark Watkins and his father thought it was an overturned boat. As they got closer they thought perhaps it was a hot air balloon. Then they realized the truth.

Facebook / Mark Watkins

Vector Space Systems aims to launch satellites by the hundreds

Devin Coldewey

8M0I6865 - P-9 in flight

Why wait for the bus when you can hail a cab? That’s the idea behind a new commercial spaceflight startup founded by SpaceX founding team members Jim Cantrell and John Garvey. Vector Space Systems wants to shake up to the commercial space market by providing not tens, but hundreds of launches per year.

Vector Space-logo-black“We’re going to bring real economics to the launch platform,” Cantrell told TechCrunch in an interview. “And we can do that because we bring supply. We’re talking about building hundreds of these things.”

Vector isn’t looking to compete with SpaceX, or even smaller commercial launch platforms like Rocket Lab and Firefly. A launch with these companies might be booked years in advance, with dozens of sub-launches, deliveries, experiments, and what have you packed into a single rocket. It’s like a space bus. Vector wants to be the space taxi.

“I had this experience pounded into my brain with LightSail,” said Cantrell, referring to the Planetary Society’s experimental solar propulsion craft. “We built that thing — I think we finished in 2011 — and it’s still waiting around for launch, because you need a particular orbit and so on. And really nobody has addressed this problem.”

With small rockets carrying single 20-40 kg payloads launching weekly or even every few days, the company can be flexible with both prices and timetables. Such small satellites are a growing business: 175 were launched in 2015 alone, and there’s plenty of room to grow. It’ll still be expensive, of course, and you won’t be able to just buy a Thursday afternoon express ticket to low earth orbit — yet.

Customers will, however, reap other benefits. There are less restrictions on space: no more having to package your satellite or craft into a launch container so it fits into a slot inside a crowded space bus. Less of a wait between build and launch means hardware can be finalized weeks, not years, in advance — and expensive satellites aren’t sitting in warehouses waiting for their turn to go live and get that sweet return on investment.

The last few years have been spent on designing and testing the as-yet-unnamed launch vehicles Vector will be using. The first stage is designed to be reusable — nothing as fancy as SpaceX’s autonomous landings, but rather using a unique aerial recovery system Cantrell seemed excited (though guarded) about.

rockettest

rockettest

Dozens of sub-orbital flights have been made, and orbital deployment is the next test. If all goes well, Vector hopes to be making its first real flights in 2017.

Investors are knocking down the front door looking to get in, he said, though he declined to name any. Perhaps they smell profitability: Vector’s business plan has it cash positive after just a few launches. Government money is also in the mix: Cantrell noted humbly that “We’ve been talking with people high up at the Pentagon who want this for obvious reasons.”

A lot depends on successful demonstration of orbital deployment, which should be happening a little later this year. If things go as planned, it could work towards removing one of the most significant restraints currently holding back commercial spaceflight.


First contact: how we’ll get the news that we found aliens

Image result for alien contact

Cathal O’Connell explains the challenges that will face scientists when they break the biggest news story in history.

However unlikely contact with aliens may be, scientists are thinking about how they would break the news to a nervous planet.CREDIT: AARON FOSTER/GETTY IMAGES

Detecting a signal from an extraterrestrial intelligence would be life changing for everyone on Earth – the biggest news story in history – and could potentially be dangerous, especially if badly handled.

Writing in the journal Acta Astronautica, scientists at the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) institute describe a protocol for how to break it to the world that we’re not alone in the Universe – without causing global mayhem.

Rather than a conspiracy of government cover-ups so beloved of sci-fi writes, the study strongly recommends openness as the key to having a “sane global conversation” about the discovery of ET.

Nobody knows how the world would react to the discovery of extraterrestrial intelligence. All we have to go on are the bizarre occurrences where the public thought they were hearing such news.

In 1938 Orson Welles’ radio-play based on HG Wells’s novel The War of the Worlds caused widespread panic in the United States (although the scale of that panic was likely exaggerated). In 1949, a Spanish language version of the same program incited rioting in Ecuador, leading to at least seven deaths, and possibly as many as 20.

Then there’s the risk of the media misreporting or exaggerating the importance of a tentative signal. In October 2015, for example, when a newly discovered extrasolar planet, KIC 8462852, was discovered to show a periodic dip in brightness, the mainstream media latched on to the most speculative, and least likely, explanation – namely that an “alien megastructure” was passing in front of its star. (The periodic dimming is more likely caused by a cloud of comets passing by.)

As a result of these excesses, scientists have been worried about how to break SETI news for decades.

In 1989, the International Academy of Astronautics drew up a set of guidelines for releasing information about a potential alien signal. But that was before the internet and social media transformed the way we consume news stories.

Now, Duncan Forgan and Alexander Scholz, from the University of St Andrew’s in Scotland, have prepared an updated protocol for how scientists should navigate the “unprecedented media onslaught”.

First, Forgan and Scholz advise, all scientists performing a SETI experiment should clearly outline their search methodology as well as define what makes a “discovery”, before the search even begins. This information should be published in a format the media can easily access, such as a blog post.

Then if a signal is detected, the discoverers should not to try to keep it under wraps – the potential fall-out from a leak would be too damaging. Much better to announce a tentative detection, but be clear that it must be assumed to be of natural or manmade origin until proved otherwise.

The scientists should submit their findings to a peer-reviewed journal, while simultaneously uploading all data so it can be pored over by other scientists – and potential known sources ruled out.

The problem is these verifications can take a long time. The best case-study is the so-called “Wow” signal, detected in 1977. That signal was exactly what SETI scientists had been looking for – being at the right frequency to hold an interstellar conversation, and being of unprecedented strength – and is still unexplained almost 39 years later. (Although in early 2016, a study published by the Washington Academy of Sciences suggested that comets could emit such a signal, and identified two comets that were in the right place at the right time in 1977. Future measurements of radio emission by comets should hopefully clear this up.)

In the case where the detection cannot be confirmed, say Forgan and Scholz, the SETI scientists should publish an announcement saying so.

In the case of the detection is confirmed, however, the SETI scientists should become deeply involved in the global conversation by engaging across as many social media platforms as possible – a role they would likely assume for the rest of their lives. They should also be prepared for the downsides of newfound fame – such as cyber attacks.

The latest polls (conducted in Germany, the UK and US last September) show that most people in developed countries believe intelligent aliens exist somewhere in the Universe. But that doesn’t mean we’re ready for a “first contact” event.

However unlikely such a discovery is, a signal from an alien intelligence would be the most momentous discovery the human species is ever likely to make. It’s worth a little thinking ahead.

Here’s The Real Difference Between Sativa & Indica Pot Strains

This article was originally published on May 27, 2015.

Now that pot legislation is making its way across the country, it’s time for a refresher on the difference between the main types of marijuana strains: indica and sativa. It’s a lesson some of us have had to learn over and over again. But, this infographic from the recently-released Green: A Field Guide To Marijuana will help us get it right.

At a basic level, we may be aware that sativa strains produce a sort of “up” high that gives users a feeling of euphoria, increased creativity, and energy. Meanwhile, indica strains usually leave us relaxed and “in-da-couch.”

But, as the infographic shows, the differences start with the shape of the plants: Sativas tend to have longer, thinner leaves and are lighter in color. Indica strains, meanwhile, often have shorter, fatter leaves and dark, dense buds.

And then, of course, there’s a whole host of hybrid strains that may produce a high that’s between the two ends of that spectrum. But, when they’re up-close — like in Erik Christiansen’s photos in the book — the differences are easy to spot. Check out the full infographic, below.

IMAGE: COURTESY OF GREEN: A FIELD GUIDE TO MARIJUANA BY DAN MICHAELS, PHOTOS BY ERIK CHRISTIANSEN, PUBLISHED BY CHRONICLE BOOKS.
Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity and would like to remind its readers that marijuana usage continues to be an offense under federal law, regardless of state marijuana laws. To learn more, click here.
PHOTO: COURTESY OF ERIK CHRISTIANSEN.

Astronauts Successfully Attach Inflatable Room to Space Station

ALYSSA NEWCOMB

Inflatable room attached to space station

A giant addition that one day may be used to support life on Mars has been deployed and is set to undergo a two-year test.It will be expanded to 5 times its size »

 

 

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SpaceX delivers world’s 1st inflatable room for astronauts

By MARCIA DUNN | April 10, 2016 | 12:05 PM EDT

In this frame taken from video from NASA TV, the SpaceX Dragon cargo ship is captured by a robot arm from the International Space Station, Sunday April 10, 2016. A SpaceX Dragon cargo ship arrived at the International Space Station on Sunday, two days after launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Station astronauts used a big robot arm to capture the Dragon, orbiting 260 miles above Earth. (NASA TV via AP)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — SpaceX has made good on a high-priority delivery: the world’s first inflatable room for astronauts.

A SpaceX Dragon cargo ship arrived at the International Space Station on Sunday, two days after launching from Cape Canaveral. Station astronauts used a robot arm to capture the Dragon, orbiting 250 miles above Earth.

The Dragon holds 7,000 pounds of freight, including the soft-sided compartment built by Bigelow Aerospace. The pioneering pod — packed tightly for launch — should swell to the size of a small bedroom once filled with air next month.

It will be attached to the space station this Saturday, but won’t be inflated until the end of May. The technology could change the way astronauts live in space: NASA envisions inflatable habitats in a couple decades at Mars, while Bigelow Aerospace aims to launch a pair of inflatable space stations in just four years for commercial lease.

For now, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module — BEAM for short — will remain mostly off-limits to the six-man station crew. NASA wants to see how the experimental chamber functions, so the hatch will stay sealed except when astronauts enter a few times a year to collect measurements and swap out sensors.

This is SpaceX’s first delivery for NASA in a year. A launch accident last June put shipments on hold.

SpaceX flight controllers at company headquarters in Hawthorne, California, applauded when the hefty station arm plucked Dragon from orbit. A few hours later, the capsule was bolted securely into place.

“It looks like we caught a Dragon,” announced British astronaut Timothy Peake, who made the grab. “There are smiles all around here,” NASA’s Mission Control replied. “Nice job capturing that Dragon.”

SpaceX is still reveling in the success of Friday’s booster landing at sea.

For the first time, a leftover booster came to a solid vertical touchdown on a floating platform. SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk wants to reuse boosters to save money, a process that he says will open access to space for more people in more places, like Mars. His ambition is to establish a city on Mars.

NASA also has Mars in its sights and looks to send astronauts there in the 2030s. In order to focus on that objective, the space agency has hired U.S. companies like SpaceX to deliver cargo and, as early as next year, astronauts to the space station. U.S. astronauts currently have to hitch rides on Russian rockets.

In a sign of these new commercial space times, a Dragon capsule is sharing the station for the first time with Orbital ATK’s supply ship named Cygnus, already parked there two weeks. This is also the first time in five years that the compound has six docking ports occupied: Dragon, Cygnus, two Russian Progress freighters and two Russian Soyuz crew capsules.

The Dragon will remain at the station for a month before returning to Earth with science samples, many of them from one-year spaceman Scott Kelly. He ended his historic mission last month. Cygnus will stick around a little longer.

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COMET CREATED CHAOS IN MARS’ MAGNETIC FIELD

by Evan Gough

Comet Siding Spring (C/2007 Q3) as imaged in the infrared by the WISE space telescope. The image was taken January 10, 2010 when the comet was 2.5AU from the Sun. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

In the Autumn of 2014, NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft arrived at Mars and entered into orbit. MAVEN wasn’t the only visitor to arrive at Mars at that time though, as comet Siding Spring (C/2013 A1) also showed up at Mars. Most of MAVEN’s instruments were shut down to protect sensitive electronics from Siding Spring’s magnetic field. But the magnetometer aboard the spacecraft was left on, which gave MAVEN a great view of the interaction between the planet and the comet.

Unlike Earth, which has a powerful magnetosphere created by its rotating metal core, Mars’ magnetosphere is created by plasma in its upper atmosphere, and is not very powerful. (Mars may have had a rotating metal core in the past, and a stronger magnetosphere because of it, but that’s beside the point.) Comet Siding Spring is small, with its nucleus being only about one half a kilometer. But its magnetosphere is situated in its coma, the long ‘tail’ of the comet that stretches out for a million kilometers.

When Siding Spring approached Mars, it came to within 140,000 km (87,000 miles) of the planet. But the comet’s coma nearly touched the surface of the planet, and during that hours-long encounter, the magnetic field from the comet created havoc with Mars’ magnetic field. And MAVEN’s magnetometer captured the event.

MAVEN was in position to capture the close encounter between Mars and comet Siding Spring. Image: NASA/Goddard.

Jared Espley is a member of the MAVEN team at Goddard Space Flight Center. He said of the Mars/Siding Spring event, “We think the encounter blew away part of Mars’ upper atmosphere, much like a strong solar storm would.”

“The main action took place during the comet’s closest approach,” said Espley, “but the planet’s magnetosphere began to feel some effects as soon as it entered the outer edge of the comet’s coma.”

Espley and his colleagues describe the event as a tide that washed over the Martian magnetosphere. Comet Siding Spring’s tail has a magnetosphere due to its interactions with the solar wind. As the comet is heated by the sun, plasma is generated, which interacts in turn with the solar wind, creating a magnetosphere. And like a tide, the effects were subtle at first, and the event played out over several hours as the comet passed by the planet.

Siding Spring’s magnetic tide had only a subtle effect on Mars at first. Normally, Mars’ magnetosphere is situated evenly around the planet, but as the comet got closer, some parts of the planet’s magnetosphere began to realign themselves. Eventually the effect was so powerful that the field was thrown into chaos, like a flag flapping every which way in a powerful wind. It took Mars a while to recover from this encounter as the field took several hours to recover.

MAVEN’s task is to gain a better understanding of the interactions between the Sun’s solar wind and Mars. So being able to witness the effect that Siding Spring had on Mars is an added bonus. Bruce Jakosky, from the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics in Boulder, is one of MAVEN’s principal investigators. “By looking at how the magnetospheres of the comet and of Mars interact with each other,” said Jakosky, “we’re getting a better understanding of the detailed processes that control each one.”