Science & technology

U.S. science leaders to tackle ethics of gene-editing technology

The leading U.S. scientific organization, responding to concerns expressed by scientists and ethicists, has launched an ambitious initiative to recommend guidelines for new genetic technology that has the potential to create “designer babies.” The technology, called CRISPR-Cas9, allows scientists to edit virtually any gene they target. The technique is akin to a biological word-processing program that finds and replaces genetic defects.

NASA Soil Moisture Mission Begins Science Operations

NASA's new Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission to map global soil moisture and detect whether soils are frozen or thawed has begun science operations. Launched Jan. 31 on a minimum three-year mission, SMAP will help scientists understand links among Earth's water, energy and carbon cycles; reduce uncertainties in predicting climate; and enhance our ability to monitor and predict natural hazards like floods and droughts.

NASA’s CubeSat Initiative Aids in Testing of Technology for Solar Sails in Space

The Planetary Society’s LightSail satellite is a technology demonstration for using solar propulsion on CubeSats, a class of research spacecraft called nanosatellites. Using the momentum transferred from solar photons as they strike a large, thin, reflective sail would allow a spacecraft to accelerate continuously using only the sun’s energy. NASA is considering the use of solar sails on future exploration mission secondary payloads, and data from this mission will advance understanding of this form of propulsion.

6 Chinese Men Indicted in Theft of Code From U.S. Tech Companies

The Obama administration on Tuesday announced the arrest of a Chinese professor and the indictment of five other Chinese citizens in what it contended was a decade-long scheme to steal microelectronics designs from American companies on behalf of the Chinese government.

NASA Challenges Designers to Construct Habitat for Deep Space Exploration

NASA and the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, known as America Makes, are holding a new $2.25 million competition to design and build a 3-D printed habitat for deep space exploration, including the agency’s journey to Mars. "The future possibilities for 3-D printing are inspiring, and the technology is extremely important to deep space exploration," said Sam Ortega, Centennial Challenges program manager.

It Is Rocket Science! NASA Releases Abundance of Free Code

NASA released its second annual Software Catalog, a giant compendium of over 1,000 programs available for free to industry, government agencies, and the general public. The Software Catalog contains the actual advanced engineering and aeronautics codes NASA engineers purpose-built for their daily work.

In open letter, female founders push for positive women-in-tech stories

More than 50 female founders and executives of companies — including TaskRabbit, Gilt, One Kings Lane and Aspect Ventures — co-signed the letter, which was posted Wednesday. The media, they wrote, should spotlight successful women and positive statistics. That would encourage more to strive for the top rungs of Silicon Valley, or simply join the industry in the first place, they said.

Dava Newman Begins Work as NASA’s Deputy Administrator

Dava Newman started her official duties as NASA’s new deputy administrator on Monday at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. Newman was nominated in January by President Obama, confirmed by the Senate in April and sworn in on Friday, May 15. The deputy administrator position had been vacant since the departure of Lori Garver in September 2013.

Chinese Hackers Force Penn State to Unplug Engineering Computers

One of the country’s largest and most productive research universities, Penn State offers a potential treasure trove of technology that’s already being developed with partners for commercial applications. The breach suggests that foreign spies could be using universities as a backdoor to U.S. commercial and defense secrets. The hackers are so deeply embedded that the engineering college’s computer network will be taken offline for several days while investigators work to eject the intruders.

Venus Plane Pushed for Next NASA Next Frontiers Mission

Northrop Grumman is developing an inflatable, propeller-powered aircraft for a years-long cruise in the sulfurous skies of Venus and is gearing up to enter the concept in NASA's next New Frontiers planetary science competition.

Windows 10 to Ship in Seven Editions: Home, Pro, Mobile, Education, Enterprise, IoT Core, Mobile Enterprise

On a blog post, the company announces that Windows 10 will be available in seven editions: Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Mobile, Windows 10 Pro, Windows 10 Education, Windows 10 Enterprise, Windows 10 IoT Core, and Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise based on the needs of different customers.

New NASA images may solve Ceres 'bright spot' puzzle

A series of new NASA images may explain the unusual bright spots on dwarf planet Ceres that have been puzzling scientists. The closest-yet images of Ceres were taken by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft on May 3 and 4 from a distance of 8,400 miles. The images show that the brightest spots in a crater within Ceres’ northern hemisphere are actually composed of many smaller spots. While the exact nature of the spots is unknown, scientists believe that they may be caused by ice.

NASA: We 'know enough' to send humans to Mars

"We're on pace... to send American astronauts to Mars in the 2030s," said NASA administrator Charles Bolden, speaking at the Humans to Mars Summit in Washington, D.C. "We could say we don't know today how to get to Mars. But we know enough... This plan is clear. This plan is affordable. And this plan is sustainable." Bolden was just one of the NASA leaders who spoke about how feasible it will be to meet the space agency's goal of getting astronauts to the surface of Mars by the 2030s.

Some Tesla Owners Pimp Their Rides with Code

With Internet connectivity, regular software updates, a 17-inch touch-screen display for the control console, and even its own Web browser, it’s an impressively high-tech vehicle. And although Tesla hasn’t yet opened it up to outside programmers, some enthusiasts are already writing code that gathers data from the car or makes it do something new.

DNA 'Printing' A Big Boon To Research, But Some Raise Concerns

Here's something that might sound strange: There are companies now that print and sell DNA. This trend — which uses the term "print" in the sense of making a bunch of copies speedily — is making particular stretches of DNA much cheaper and easier to obtain than ever before. That excites many scientists who are keen to use these tailored strings of genetic instructions to do all sorts of things, ranging from finding new medical treatments to genetically engineering better crops.

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