Amazon’s Whole Foods delivery gets a taste test

Sushi selfie

GeekWire’s Alan Boyle takes a sushi selfie.

AUSTIN, Texas — Gray skies, cops on bikes, microbrews and transit turmoil: If Texas’ state capital gets picked as Amazon’s HQ2, Amazonians will find much that’s familiar, plus the scent of barbecue wafting through the air.

And they’ll find something they can’t yet get in Seattle: one-hour grocery delivery from Whole Foods, courtesy of Amazon Prime Now.

Sure, Prime Now can deliver the goods in Seattle, from PCC Community Markets, New Seasons Markets and other vendors. But Whole Foods isn’t on the list in Amazon’s hometown. Yet.

Austin, however, is one of four cities (also including Cincinnati, Dallas and Virginia Beach) where Amazon rolled out one-hour Whole Foods grocery delivery for Amazon Prime members this month. You can even get free delivery within two hours if you order at least $35 worth of groceries.

It probably helps that Austin is the home base for Whole Foods, which Amazon acquired last year for $13.7 billion. (That’s a lot of lettuce.)

To try out the system, and to keep my stomach from growling during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Austin, I put together an online order in my hotel room.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Posted in GeekWire | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Planetary Resources misses goal and trims jobs

Image: Arkyd 6

An artist’s conception shows Planetary Resources’ Arkyd-6 satellite. (Credit: Planetary Resources)

Planetary Resources, a Redmond, Wash.-based venture that aims to make a fortune mining asteroids, is facing a more down-to-earth challenge: a fundraising shortfall.

Just last month, the company had its Arkyd-6 prototype space telescope launched into orbit by an Indian PSLV rocket, and that spacecraft has been undergoing testing.

Arkyd-6 is designed to provide midwave infrared imagery of Earth, as a technological tryout for future asteroid-observing probes.

A spokeswoman for Planetary Resources, Stacey Tearne, told GeekWire that financial challenges have forced the company to focus on leveraging the Arkyd-6 mission for near-term revenue — apparently by selling imagery and data.

“Planetary Resources missed a fundraising milestone,” Tearne explained in an email. “The company remains committed to utilizing the resources from space to further explore space, but is focusing on near-term revenue streams by maximizing the opportunity of having a spacecraft in orbit.”

Tearne said no further information was available, and did not address questions about employment cutbacks. However, reports from other sources in the space community suggest there have been notable job reductions. For what it’s worth, Planetary Resources had more than 70 employees at last report.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Posted in GeekWire | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Former VP Joe Biden comes out swinging for science

Joe Biden

Former Vice President Joe Biden, shown on a huge video screen, addresses the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Austin, Texas. (GeekWire Photo)

AUSTIN, Texas — Joe Biden may no longer be vice president, but he’s still leading the charge for his cancer moonshot, and for science funding as well.

“The United States government, at this point in our development, should be doubling and tripling down on investment in pure research across the board,” Biden said today in Austin at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

That line drew sympathetic applause from the hundreds of scientists and educators who turned out to see the 75-year-old statesman.

Biden is said to be considering a presidential run in 2020, and if that’s the case, his views on science could well be part of the platform.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Posted in GeekWire | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Asteroid miners might need applied astronomers

Planetary Resources asteroid

An artist’s conception shows a long-range view of mining robots working on an asteroid. (Planetary Resources Illustration)

AUSTIN, Texas — Mining asteroids for water and other resources could someday become a trillion-dollar business, but not without astronomers to point the way.

At least that’s the view of Martin Elvis, a researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who’s been taking a close look at the science behind asteroid mining.

If the industry ever takes off the way ventures such as Redmond, Wash.-based Planetary Resources and California-based Deep Space Industries hope, “that opens up new employment opportunities for astronomers,” Elvis said today in Austin at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Posted in GeekWire | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

So what if we find alien life? Don’t panic!

TESS spacecraft

An artist’s conception shows the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, monitoring a distant star and its planets. (NASA Illustration)

AUSTIN, Texas — If extraterrestrial life exists, there’s a chance we’ll detect it sometime in the next 20 years. And then what? A recently published study suggests that most folks will take the news calmly, if they care at all.

“How would we react if we find that we’re not alone in the universe? This question has been the cause of great speculation over the years — but, until now, virtually no systematic empirical research,” Michael Varnum, a psychologist at Arizona State University, said today in Austin at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

In a study published by Frontiers of Psychology, Varnum and his colleagues suggest that revelations about life beyond our planet will be viewed more positively than negatively.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Posted in GeekWire | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

How are gut microbes connected to memory?

Bacteria and brain

Researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are studying how bacteria in the gut can affect the brain’s memory function. (PNNL Illustration)

AUSTIN, Texas — Can probiotic bacteria play a role in how well your memory works? It’s too early to say for sure, but mouse studies have turned up some clues worth remembering.

Preliminary results suggest that giving mice the kinds of bacteria often found in dietary supplements have a beneficial effect on memory when it comes to navigating mazes or avoiding electrical shocks.

One such study, focusing on mazes and object-in-place recognition, was published last year. And researchers from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., are seeing similarly beneficial effects on memory in preliminary results from their experiments.

PNNL’s Janet Jansson provided an advance look at her team’s yet-to-be-published findings here today at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Posted in GeekWire | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

FCC chief endorses SpaceX’s satellite plan

Ajit Pai

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is on board with SpaceX’s satellite plan. (Flickr Photo / FCCDotGov)

SpaceX’s plan to beam broadband services to America and the world via its Starlink satellite constellation got a big thumbs-up today from Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

Pai’s endorsement isn’t exactly a surprise: The FCC already has given its approval to rival companies with similar plans, including OneWeb, Space Norway and Telesat.

Nevertheless, Pai’s praise probably made Valentine’s Day nicer for SpaceX, just days after the high-profile maiden launch of its Falcon Heavy rocket and days before the scheduled launch of the first prototype Starlink satellites.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Posted in GeekWire | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment