Nearly two weeks after an asteroid exploded over Russia's Ural
mountains, scientists are making progress understanding the origin and
make-up of the unexpected space rock. Today's story from Science@NASA
presents their latest results.
Face it – humans are pattern-seeking animals. We identify eyes,
nose and mouth where there are none. Martian rock takes on a visage
and the silhouette of Elvis appears in our burrito. Discover the roots
of our face-tracking tendency – pareidolia – and why it sometimes
leads us astray.
Plus, why some brains can’t recognize faces at all … how computer
programs exhibit their own pareidolia … and why it’s so difficult to
replicate human vision in a machine
ENCORE: The tools of forensics have moved
way beyond fingerprint kits. These days, a prosecutor is as likely to
wave a fMRI brain scan as a smoking gun as “Exhibit A.” Discover what
happens when neuroscience has its day in court.
Meanwhile, research into the gold standard of identification, DNA, marches on. One day we may determine a suspect’s eye color from a drop of blood.
Plus, why much of forensic science – from fingerprinting to the
polygraph – is more like reading tea leaves than science. And will
future crime victims be robots?
Owen Jones – Professor of law, Professor of biological sciences at Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tennessee
Manfred Kayser – Forensic molecular biologist, Erasmus University Medical Centre, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
RUSSIAN METEOR EXPLOSION: Today, Feb. 15th, a meteor exploded in the
daytime skies of Chelyabinsk, Russian. Shock waves from the blast
shattered windows in many buildings and sent onlookers to the hospital
with wounds from flying glass. The meteoroid entered the atmosphere
just as asteroid 2012 DA14 was approaching Earth for a record-setting
close approach later in the day. However, NASA says there is no
connection between the two: the Russian meteor and 2012 DA14 have
different trajectories. A cosmic coincidence? Visit http://spaceweather.com more information and updates.
Some researchers believe that near-Earth asteroid 2012 DA14 might
experience seismic activity when it flies through our planet's
gravitational field on Feb. 15th. Observatories around the world will
be on the lookout for signs of an 'asteroid-quake' during the space
rock's close approach.
Forecasters say solar maximum is due in 2013. To prepare, the United
Nations is taking steps to organize an international response to stormy
From the article: "Space weather might play a role in Earth’s climate, too. For example, the Maunder minimum, a 70-year period almost devoid of sunspots in the late 17th to early 18th century, coincided with prolonged, very cold winters in the northern hemisphere. Researchers are increasingly convinced that variations in solar activity have regional effects on climate and weather that pay no attention to national boundaries, and thus can only be studied in meaningful detail by international consortia."
Researchers have discovered life in a buried Antarctic lake. But
we’re not surprised. Life is amazingly adaptive. Expose it to any
environment – heat, ice, acid or even jet fuel – and thrives. But this
discovery of life under the ice may have exciting implications for
finding biology beyond Earth.
Scientists share their discovery, and how they drilled down through a half-mile of ice.
Also, plunge into another watery alien world with director James
Cameron, and the first solo dive to the deepest, darkest part of the
Plus, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist tries to create life in his lab
to learn more about biology’s origins, and Martian fossils abound in
Robert J. Sawyer’s latest sci-fi novel.
Helen Amanda Fricker – Glaciologist, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California, San Diego
Jill Mikucki – Microbiologist at the University of Tennessee
Chris McKay – Planetary scientist, NASA Ames Research Center
Jack Szostak – Nobel Prize winning chemist, Harvard University, Massachusetts General Hospital
James Cameron – film director and explorer-in-residence for National Geographic
In a milestone accomplishment, NASA's Curiosity rover has drilled into a
rock on Mars and gathered material from its interior. This is the
first time any robot has drilled into a rock to collect a sample on
A comet falling in from the distant reaches of the solar system could
become a naked-eye object in early March. This is Comet Pan-STARRS's
first visit to the inner solar system, so surprises are possible as its
virgin ices are exposed to intense solar heating for the first time.
We all crave power: to run laptops, charge cell phones, and play
Angry Birds. But if generating energy is easy, storing it is not.
Remember when your computer conked out during that cross-country flight?
Why can’t someone build a better battery?
Discover why battery design is stuck in the 1800s, and why updating
it is key to future green transportation (not to mention more juice for
your smartphone). Also, how to build a new type of solar cell that can
turn sunlight directly into fuel at the pump.
Plus, force fields, fat cells and other storage systems. And: Shock lobster! Energy from crustaceans?
Dan Lankford – Former CEO of three battery technology companies, and a managing director at Wavepoint Ventures
SOLAR RADIO BURST: Solar activity has been low for weeks. However,
there was a break in the quiet this weekend when new sunspot AR1667
unleashed a strong burst of shortwave radio static. The emissions were
so loud, they overwhelmed the sounds of terrestrial voice transmissions
in the loudspeakers of some shortwave radios on Earth. A recording of
the outburst is featured on today's edition of http://spaceweather.com